Ancient and modern anticonvulsants act synergistically in a KCNQ potassium channel binding pocket

Rian Manville, Geoffrey Abbott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Epilepsy has been treated for centuries with herbal remedies, including leaves of the African shrub Mallotus oppositifolius, yet the underlying molecular mechanisms have remained unclear. Voltage-gated potassium channel isoforms KCNQ2-5, predominantly KCNQ2/3 heteromers, underlie the neuronal M-current, which suppresses neuronal excitability, protecting against seizures. Here, in silico docking, mutagenesis and cellular electrophysiology reveal that two components of M. oppositifolius leaf extract, mallotoxin (MTX) and isovaleric acid (IVA), act synergistically to open neuronal KCNQs, including KCNQ2/3 channels. Correspondingly, MTX and IVA combine to suppress pentylene tetrazole-induced tonic seizures in mice, whereas individually they are ineffective. Co-administering MTX and IVA with the modern, synthetic anticonvulsant retigabine creates a further synergy that voltage independently locks KCNQ2/3 open. Leveraging this synergy, which harnesses ancient and modern medicines to exploit differential KCNQ isoform preferences, presents an approach to developing safe yet effective anticonvulsants.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3845
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2018

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