New review on virus-like particles produced by neurons in seizures.

Frontiers in Neurology

Arc protein, a remnant of ancient retrovirus, forms virus-like particles, which are abundantly generated by neurons during epileptic seizures, and affects epileptic susceptibility in rodent models.

Dmitry A. Sibarov, Vassiliy Tsytsarev, Anna Volnova, Anastasia N. Vaganova, Janaina Alves, Legier Rojas, Priscila Sanabria, Alla Ignashchenkova, Elton D. Savage and Mikhail Inyushin


A product of the immediate early gene Arc (Activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein or Arc protein) of retroviral ancestry resides in the genome of all tetrapods for millions of years and is expressed endogenously in neurons. It is a well-known protein, very important for synaptic plasticity and memory consolidation. Activity-dependent Arc expression concentrated in glutamatergic synapses affects the long-time synaptic strength of those excitatory synapses. Because it modulates excitatory-inhibitory balance in a neuronal network, the Arc gene itself was found to be related to the pathogenesis of epilepsy. General Arc knockout rodent models develop a susceptibility to epileptic seizures. Because of activity dependence, synaptic Arc protein synthesis also is affected by seizures. Interestingly, it was found that Arc protein in synapses of active neurons self-assemble in capsids of retrovirus-like particles, which can transfer genetic information between neurons, at least across neuronal synaptic boutons. Released Arc particles can be accumulated in astrocytes after seizures. It is still not known how capsid assembling and transmission timescale is affected by seizures. This scientific field is relatively novel and is experiencing swift transformation as it grapples with difficult concepts in light of evolving experimental findings. We summarize the emergent literature on the subject and also discuss the specific rodent models for studying Arc effects in epilepsy. We summarized both to clarify the possible role of Arc-related pseudo-viral particles in epileptic disorders, which may be helpful to researchers interested in this growing area of investigation.

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