Gene of the Month - Cacophony

11 March 2016

Interview with

Kat Arney

And finally it's time for our noisy Gene of the Month - it's Cacophony. A gene found in fruit flies, Cacophony encodes part of a special tunnel-like protein called an ion channel, found in the nerve cells within the insect's brain. It's responsible for shuttling calcium ions across the borders of nerve cells, which is essential for enabling these cells to send and receive messages correctly. Scientists have found that having a certain faulty version of Cacophony can cause flies to have epilepsy-like seizures. But - strangely - it actually prevents seizures in fruit flies that carry another faulty gene, called paralytic-bss1, which also makes them susceptible to the fly version of epilepsy. And it has the same suppressing effect in flies carrying seizure mutations going by the wonderful names Easily Shocked and Slamdance. But, of course, this is of greater importance than just insects - around one per cent of the population is affected by chronic epileptic seizures. Figuring out the interactions between Cacophony and these other genes is helping to shed light on how ion channels interact in the brains of humans affected by these conditions, paving the way for more effective ways to control them in future.

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