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J Neurosci. 2012 Oct 10;32(41):14389-401. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3408-12.2012.

Layer-specific CREB target gene induction in human neocortical epilepsy.

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  • 1Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA.


Epilepsy is a disorder of recurrent seizures that affects 1% of the population. To understand why some areas of cerebral cortex produce seizures and others do not, we identified differentially expressed genes in human epileptic neocortex compared with nearby regions that did not produce seizures. The transcriptome that emerged strongly implicates MAPK signaling and CREB-dependent transcription, with 74% of differentially expressed genes containing a cAMP response element (CRE) in their proximal promoter, more than half of which are conserved. Despite the absence of recent seizures in these patients, epileptic brain regions prone to seizures showed persistent activation of ERK and CREB. Persistent CREB activation was directly linked to CREB-dependent gene transcription by chromatin immunoprecipitation that showed phosphorylated CREB constitutively associated with the proximal promoters of many of the induced target genes involved in neuronal signaling, excitability, and synaptic plasticity. A distinct spatial pattern of ERK activation was seen in superficial axodendritic processes of epileptic neocortex that colocalized with both CREB phosphorylation and CREB target gene induction in well demarcated populations of layer 2/3 neurons. These same neuronal lamina showed a marked increase in synaptic density. The findings generated in this study generate a robust and spatially restricted pattern of epileptic biomarkers and associated synaptic changes that could lead to new mechanistic insights and potential therapeutic targets for human epilepsy.

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