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Brain Res. 1998 Jan 26;782(1-2):240-7.

NMDA receptor activation during status epilepticus is required for the development of epilepsy.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond 23298-0599, USA.


NMDA receptor activation has been implicated in modulating seizure activity; however, its complete role in the development of epilepsy is unknown. The pilocarpine model of limbic epilepsy involves inducing status epilepticus (SE) with the subsequent development of spontaneous recurrent seizures (SRSs) and is widely accepted as a model of limbic epilepsy in humans. The pilocarpine model of epilepsy provides a tool for looking at the molecular signals triggered by SE that are responsible for the development of epilepsy. In this study, we wanted to examine the role of NMDA receptor activation on the development of epilepsy using the pilocarpine model. Pretreatment with the NMDA receptor antagonist MK-801 does not block the onset of SE in the pilocarpine model. Thus, we could compare animals that experience similar lengths of SE in the presence or absence of NMDA receptor activation. Animals treated with MK-801 (4 mg/kg) 20 min prior to pilocarpine (350 mg/kg) (MK-Pilo) were compared to the pilocarpine treated epileptic animals 3-8 weeks after the initial episode of SE. The pilocarpine-treated animals displayed both ictal activity and interictal spikes on EEG analysis, whereas MK-801-pilocarpine and control animals only exhibited normal background EEG patterns. In addition, MK-801-pilocarpine animals did not exhibit any SRSs, while pilocarpine-treated animals exhibited 4.8 +/- 1 seizures per 40 h. MK-801-pilocarpine animals did not demonstrate any decrease in pyramidal cell number in the CA1 subfield of the hippocampus, while pilocarpine animals averaged 15% decrease in cell number. In summary, the MK-801-pilocarpine animals exhibited a number of characteristics similar to control animals and were statistically significantly different from pilocarpine-treated animals. Thus, NMDA receptor inhibition by MK-801 prevented the development of epilepsy and interictal activity following SE. These results indicate that NMDA receptor activation is required for epileptogenesis following SE in this model of limbic epilepsy.

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