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Neurosci Lett. 2008 May 16;436(3):289-93. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2008.02.076. Epub 2008 Mar 21.

Levetiracetam inhibits both ryanodine and IP3 receptor activated calcium induced calcium release in hippocampal neurons in culture.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23298, United States.


Epilepsy affects approximately 1% of the population worldwide, and there is a pressing need to develop new anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) and understand their mechanisms of action. Levetiracetam (LEV) is a novel AED and despite its increasingly widespread clinical use, its mechanism of action is as yet undetermined. Intracellular calcium ([Ca2+]i) regulation by both inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate receptors (IP3R) and ryanodine receptors (RyR) has been implicated in epileptogenesis and the maintenance of epilepsy. To this end, we investigated the effect of LEV on RyR and IP3R activated calcium-induced calcium release (CICR) in hippocampal neuronal cultures. RyR-mediated CICR was stimulated using the well-characterized RyR activator, caffeine. Caffeine (10mM) caused a significant increase in [Ca2+]i in hippocampal neurons. Treatment with LEV (33 microM) prior to stimulation of RyR-mediated CICR by caffeine led to a 61% decrease in the caffeine induced peak height of [Ca2+]i when compared to the control. Bradykinin stimulates IP3R-activated CICR-to test the effect of LEV on IP3R-mediated CICR, bradykinin (1 microM) was used to stimulate cells pre-treated with LEV (100 microM). The data showed that LEV caused a 74% decrease in IP3R-mediated CICR compared to the control. In previous studies we have shown that altered Ca2+ homeostatic mechanisms play a role in seizure activity and the development of spontaneous recurrent epileptiform discharges (SREDs). Elevations in [Ca2+]i mediated by CICR systems have been associated with neurotoxicity, changes in neuronal plasticity, and the development of AE. Thus, the ability of LEV to modulate the two major CICR systems demonstrates an important molecular effect of this agent on a major second messenger system in neurons.

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