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Epilepsy Res. 1998 Jun;31(1):13-27.

Physiological analysis of Rasmussen's encephalitis: patch clamp recordings of altered inhibitory neurotransmitter function in resected frontal cortical tissue.

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


Rasmussen's encephalitis (RE) is a progressive, rare childhood disease characterized by severe epilepsy, hemiplegia, dementia, and inflammation of the brain. While one mechanism underlying the pathogenesis of RE has been hypothesized to be mediated by production of excitotoxic GluR3 autoantibodies to the AMPA receptor, other neuropathological etiologies have also been indicated. Whole-cell patch clamp recordings of GABA(A) receptor mediated responses were conducted in neurons acutely isolated from an RE patient, and compared to properties of non-focal human temporal cortical neurons. RE neurons appeared similar anatomically to control cortical neurons. Significant differences in GABAergic responses were evident between RE and control neurons. GABA was significantly more potent in RE than in control cortical neurons (EC50 of 13 microM vs 23 microM, respectively). In addition, the overall efficacy of GABA was significantly decreased in RE neurons, associated with a decrease in postsynaptic GABA current density in RE neurons (5.1 pA/microm2) in comparison to controls (9.2 pA/microm2). Augmentation of GABA responses by the benzodiazepine, clonazepam (CNZ), was significantly reduced in RE in comparison to control neurons (34% vs 99% augmentation at 100 nM). The RE-associated reduced functional efficacy and altered pharmacology of neuronal GABA(A) receptors is consistent with overall disinhibition in RE neurons, and could contribute to the generation of the severe epileptic activity evident in this disorder.

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