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Neuroscience. 1999;94(4):1051-61.

Ionotropic glutamate and GABA receptors in human epileptic neocortical tissue: quantitative in vitro receptor autoradiography.

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C. and O. Vogt Institute of Brain Research and Institute of Neuroanatomy, University Düsseldorf, Germany.


Since a disturbed balance between excitatory and inhibitory amino acid receptors is suggested to be an important condition for epileptogenic cortical activity, the present study has focused on the analysis of the densities of (+/-)-alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid (AMPA), N-methyl-D-aspartate, kainate and GABA subtype A receptors in neocortical tissue surgically removed from patients with focal epilepsy. The mean densities (collapsed over cortical layers I-VI) and the laminar distribution patterns of [3H]AMPA, [3H]MK-801, [3H]kainate and [3H]muscimol binding to AMPA, N-methyl-D-aspartate, kainate and GABAA receptors were determined with quantitative receptor autoradiography in the neocortex of patients with focal epilepsy and controls. The tissue probes used in the present study were functionally characterized by parallel electrophysiological investigations. From that, the different probes could be subdivided into a spontaneously spiking and a non-spontaneously spiking group. The mean density of [3H]AMPA binding sites was significantly increased (+37%) in the group of epileptic brains (n = 10) compared with controls (n = 10), but the mean densities of [3H]MK-801, [3H]kainate and [3H]muscimol binding sites were not significantly altered (-8%, +/-0% and -7%, respectively). The relation between the densities of all four binding sites were simultaneously displayed as polar plots in each single brain ("receptor fingerprints"). The consistent up-regulation of [3H]AMPA binding sites in all epileptic brains was found to be associated with a down-regulation of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor in four of the five non-spontaneously spiking cases, and an associated up-regulation of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor was seen in all spontaneously spiking cases. Finally, the laminar distribution of binding site densities was analysed, since the mean densities collapsed over all neocortical layers may obscure layer-specific alterations. Layer- and receptor- specific up- or down-regulations were found in epileptic tissue compared with controls. Moreover, the laminar distribution pattern of current sinks associated with epileptiform potentials in a spontaneously spiking cortical slice was found to be co-localized with local maxima of AMPA receptor densities. The present analysis of four ionotropic glutamate and GABA receptor subtypes demonstrates a consistent and significant up-regulation of [3H]AMPA binding sites in all cases of human focal epilepsy, which co-localizes with the occurrence of sinks in current-source-density analysis. The receptor fingerprint analysis suggests a subdivision of focal epilepsy into two subtypes on the basis of neurochemical/functional correlations: (i) a spontaneously spiking subtype with increased N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor density, and (ii) a non-spontaneously spiking subtype with decreased N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor density.

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