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Research Portfolio


The role of adenosine and ATP during seizures


Grant round winners 2007

grant amount:

£69,950 for a three year project

lead investigator:

Bruno Frenguelli and Nicholas Dale



School of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick


Bruno Frenguelli and Nicholas Dale of the School of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, will be looking at two closely-related molecules called adenosine and ATP, and investigating the role they play in epilepsy. To do this they will be using a technology developed at Warwick University that is unique in the world: tiny probes which use enzymes to detect and measure the levels of these molecules during seizure activity.

Adenosine and ATP (adenosine triphosphate) are found in every cell in the body. Brain cells can release ATP, which is then broken down to adenosine. Adenosine strongly inhibits electrical activity in the brain. ATP on the other hand can be both excitatory and inhibitory. How much of each molecule is present therefore affects the excitability of the brain and the likelihood of seizures.

Dr Frenguelli and Professor Dale will be testing the theory that seizures are provoked when ATP is released from cells. The ATP is then converted into adenosine, and as this is inhibitory, the seizures die down. In particular they’ll be looking at:

  • the different types of receptors for ATP and how these affect seizures differently;
  • whether brain cells release adenosine directly or ATP during seizures;
  • which types of cells release the ATP and adenosine.

The Epilepsy Research Foundation (now Epilepsy Research UK) awarded the researchers £69,950 for a three year project called “Regulation of cortical excitability and seizure activity by purines“. Once the interaction of adenosine and ATP (which are both purines) during seizures is understood, new drugs to treat epilepsy that target this process could be developed.

This is one of five grants made by the Epilepsy Research Foundation (now Epilepsy Research UK) in 2007. Read about the other grants from 2007 here

The Study