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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Feb 16;107(7):3180-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0914710107. Epub 2010 Jan 26.

Enhancement of GABA(A)-current run-down in the hippocampus occurs at the first spontaneous seizure in a model of temporal lobe epilepsy.

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Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Section of Pharmacology, and Neuroscience Center, University of Ferrara, 44100 Ferrara, Italy.


Refractory temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) is associated with a dysfunction of inhibitory signaling mediated by GABA(A) receptors. In particular, the use-dependent decrease (run-down) of the currents (I(GABA)) evoked by the repetitive activation of GABA(A) receptors is markedly enhanced in hippocampal and cortical neurons of TLE patients. Understanding the role of I(GABA) run-down in the disease, and its mechanisms, may allow development of medical alternatives to surgical resection, but such mechanistic insights are difficult to pursue in surgical human tissue. Therefore, we have used an animal model (pilocarpine-treated rats) to identify when and where the increase in I(GABA) run-down occurs in the natural history of epilepsy. We found: (i) that the increased run-down occurs in the hippocampus at the time of the first spontaneous seizure (i.e., when the diagnosis of epilepsy is made), and then extends to the neocortex and remains constant in the course of the disease; (ii) that the phenomenon is strictly correlated with the occurrence of spontaneous seizures, because it is not observed in animals that do not become epileptic. Furthermore, initial exploration of the molecular mechanism disclosed a relative increase in alpha4-, relative to alpha1-containing GABA(A) receptors, occurring at the same time when the increased run-down appears, suggesting that alterations in the molecular composition of the GABA receptors may be responsible for the occurrence of the increased run-down. These observations disclose research opportunities in the field of epileptogenesis that may lead to a better understanding of the mechanism whereby a previously normal tissue becomes epileptic.

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