The Transcription Factor Shox2 Shapes Neuron Firing Properties and Suppresses Seizures by Regulation of Key Ion Channels in Thalamocortical Neurons

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Cerebral Cortex


Thalamocortical neurons (TCNs) play a critical role in the maintenance of thalamocortical oscillations, dysregulation of which can result in certain types of seizures. Precise control over firing rates of TCNs is foundational to these oscillations, yet the transcriptional mechanisms that constrain these firing rates remain elusive. We hypothesized that Shox2 is a transcriptional regulator of ion channels important for TCN function and that loss of Shox2 alters firing frequency and activity, ultimately perturbing thalamocortical oscillations into an epilepsy-prone state. In this study, we used RNA sequencing and quantitative PCR of control and Shox2 knockout mice to determine Shox2-affected genes and revealed a network of ion channel genes important for neuronal firing properties. Protein regulation was confirmed by Western blotting, and electrophysiological recordings showed that Shox2 KO impacted the firing properties of a subpopulation of TCNs. Computational modeling showed that disruption of these conductances in a manner similar to Shox2's effects modulated frequency of oscillations and could convert sleep spindles to near spike and wave activity, which are a hallmark for absence epilepsy. Finally, Shox2 KO mice were more susceptible to pilocarpine-induced seizures. Overall, these results reveal Shox2 as a transcription factor important for TCN function in adult mouse thalamus.

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Oxford University Press