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Exp Neurol. 2002 Apr;174(2):201-14.

Spontaneous limbic seizures after intrahippocampal infusion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor.

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  • 1Center for Neural Recovery and Rehabilitation Research, Helen Hayes Hospital, West Haverstraw, New York, 10993-1195, USA.


The results of several studies have contributed to the hypothesis that BDNF promotes seizure activity, particularly in adult hippocampus. To test this hypothesis, BDNF, vehicle (phosphate-buffered saline, PBS), or albumin was infused directly into the hippocampus for 2 weeks using osmotic minipumps. Rats were examined behaviorally, electrophysiologically, and anatomically. An additional group was tested for sensitivity to the convulsant pilocarpine. Spontaneous behavioral seizures were observed in BDNF-infused rats (8/32; 25%) but not in controls (0/20; 0%). In a subset of six animals (three BDNF, three albumin), blind electrophysiological analysis of scalp recordings contralateral to the infused hippocampus demonstrated abnormalities in all BDNF rats; but not controls. Neuronal loss in BDNF-treated rats was not detected relative to PBS- or albumin-treated animals, but immunocytochemical markers showed a pattern of expression in BDNF-treated rats that was similar to rats with experimentally induced seizures. Thus, BDNF-infused rats had increased expression of NPY in hilar neurons of the dentate gyrus relative to control rats. NPY and BDNF expression was increased in the mossy fiber axons of dentate gyrus granule cells relative to controls. The increase in NPY and BDNF expression in BDNF-treated rats was bilateral and occurred throughout the septotemporal axis of the hippocampus. Mossy fiber sprouting occurred in five BDNF-treated rats but no controls. In another group of infused rats that was tested for seizure sensitivity to the convulsant pilocarpine, BDNF-infused rats had a shorter latency to status epilepticus than PBS-infused rats. In addition, the progression from normal behavior to severe seizures was faster in BDNF-treated rats. These data support the hypothesis that intrahippocampal BDNF infusion can facilitate, and potentially initiate, seizure activity in adult hippocampus.

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