Lipids are essential components of the nervous system. However, the functions of very long-chain fatty acids (VLC-FA; ≥ 28 carbons) in the brain are unknown. The enzyme ELOngation of Very Long-chain fatty acids-4 (ELOVL4) catalyzes the rate-limiting step in the biosynthesis of VLC-FA (Agbaga et al., Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105(35): 12843-12848, 2008; Logan et al., J Lipid Res 55(4): 698-708, 2014), which we identified in the brain as saturated fatty acids (VLC-SFA). Homozygous mutations in ELOVL4 cause severe neuropathology in humans (Ozaki et al., JAMA Neurol 72(7): 797-805, 2015; Mir et al., BMC Med Genet 15: 25, 2014; Cadieux-Dion et al., JAMA Neurol 71(4): 470-475, 2014; Bourassa et al., JAMA Neurol 72(8): 942-943, 2015; Aldahmesh et al., Am J Hum Genet 89(6): 745-750, 2011) and are post-natal lethal in mice (Cameron et al., Int J Biol Sci 3(2): 111-119, 2007; Li et al., Int J Biol Sci 3(2): 120-128, 2007; McMahon et al., Molecular Vision 13: 258-272, 2007; Vasireddy et al., Hum Mol Genet 16(5): 471-482, 2007) from dehydration due to loss of VLC-SFA that comprise the skin permeability barrier. Double transgenic mice with homozygous knock-in of the Stargardt-like macular dystrophy (STDG3; 797-801_AACTT) mutation of Elovl4 with skin-specific rescue of wild-type Elovl4 expression (S + Elovl4 mut/mut mice) develop seizures by P19 and die by P21. Electrophysiological analyses of hippocampal slices showed aberrant epileptogenic activity in S + Elovl4 mut/mut mice. FM1-43 dye release studies showed that synapses made by cultured hippocampal neurons from S + Elovl4 mut/mut mice exhibited accelerated synaptic release kinetics. Supplementation of VLC-SFA to cultured hippocampal neurons from mutant mice rescued defective synaptic release to wild-type rates. Together, these studies establish a critical, novel role for ELOVL4 and its VLC-SFA products in regulating synaptic release kinetics and epileptogenesis. Future studies aimed at understanding the molecular mechanisms by which VLC-SFA regulate synaptic function may provide new targets for improved seizure therapies.
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