Critical Role for the inwarly rectifying potassum channel Kir4.1 in astrocyte and oligodendrocyte functions

Project Details


The brain contains two kinds of cell, nerves that transmit information, and glial cells, which are essential for nerve cells to function correctly. The two main glial cells are astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. Oligodendrocytes form the myelin sheaths that are critical for rapid transmission of nerve signals. Oligodendrocytes do not develop properly in cerebral palsy and are lost in the demyelinating disease multiple sclerosis, resulting in the debilitating clinical signs of these diseases. Also, during transmission of signals nerves release chemicals which are ?mopped up? up by astrocytes. Disruption of these protective functions of astrocytes results in seizures and nerve death, which occur in epilepsy, stroke, and brain injury. Our work has helped show that a specific glial protein called Kir4.1 is absolutely essential for the specialised functions of glia. In humans, the Kir4.1 gene is linked to general seizure susceptibility, and loss of Kir4.1 causes the loss of myelin and disruption of astrocyte protective functions. Ours is fundamental research into the mechanisms by which Kir4.1 regulate glial cell functions, which will inform on seizure susceptibility, injury, and white matter pathology.
Effective start/end date1/10/0930/09/12


  • Medical Research Council: £346,488.00


  • Neurological
  • Normal biological development and functioning


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