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J Neurophysiol. 2001 Apr;85(4):1533-42.

GABA uptake and heterotransport are impaired in the dentate gyrus of epileptic rats and humans with temporal lobe sclerosis.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


In vivo dialysis and in vitro electrophysiological studies suggest that GABA uptake is altered in the dentate gyrus of human temporal lobe epileptics characterized with mesial temporal sclerosis (MTLE). Concordantly, anatomical studies have shown that the pattern of GABA-transporter immunoreactivity is also altered in this region. This decrease in GABA uptake, presumably due to a change in the GABA transporter system, may help preserve inhibitory tone interictally. However, transporter reversal can also occur under several conditions, including elevations in [K(+)]o, which occurs during seizures. Thus GABA transporters could contribute to seizure termination and propagation through heterotransport. To test whether GABA transport is compromised in both the forward (uptake) and reverse (heterotransport) direction in the sclerotic epileptic dentate gyrus, the physiological effects of microapplied GABA and nipecotic acid (NPA; a compound that induces heterotransport) were examined in granule cells in hippocampal slices from kainate (KA)-induced epileptic rats and patients with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). GABA- and NPA-induced responses were prolonged in granule cells from epileptic rats versus controls (51.3 and 31.3% increase, respectively) while the conductance change evoked with NPA microapplication was reduced by 40%. Furthermore the ratio of GABA/NPA conductance, but not duration, was significantly >1 in epileptic rats but not controls, suggesting a compromise in transporter function in both directions. Similar changes were observed in tissue resected from epileptic patients with medial temporal sclerosis but not in those without the anatomical changes associated with MTLE. These data suggest that the GABA transporter system is functionally compromised in both the forward and reverse directions in the dentate gyrus of chronically epileptic tissue characterized by mesial temporal sclerosis. This alteration may enhance inhibitory tone interically yet be permissive for seizure propagation due to a decreased probability for GABA heterotransport during seizures.

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