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Neuroscience. 2001;106(2):275-85.

Changes in the mRNAs encoding voltage-gated sodium channel types II and III in human epileptic hippocampus.

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Department of Neurobiology, The Babraham Institute, Babraham, Cambridge CB2 4AT, UK.


Studies with animal seizure models have indicated that changes in temporal and spatial expression of voltage-gated sodium channels may be important in the pathology of epilepsy. Here, by using in situ hybridisation with previously characterised subtype-selective oligonucleotide probes [Whitaker et al. (2000) J. Comp. Neurol. 422, 123-139], we have compared the cellular expression of all four brain alpha-subunit sodium channel mRNAs in "normal" and epileptic hippocampi from humans. Neuronal cell loss was observed in all regions of the hippocampus of diseased patients, indicating that sclerosis had occurred. Losses of up to 40% compared to post-mortem controls were observed which were statistically significant in all regions studied (dentate gyrus, hilus, and CA1-3). To assess mRNA levels of the different alpha-subtypes in specific subregions, control and diseased tissue sections were hybridised to subtype-specific probes. To quantify any changes in expression while allowing for cell loss, the sections were processed for liquid emulsion autoradiography and grain counts were performed on populations of individual neurones in different subregions. No significant differences were found in the expression of type I and VI mRNAs. In contrast, a significant down-regulation of type II mRNA was observed in the epileptic tissue in the remaining pyramidal cells of CA3 (71+/-7% of control, P<0.01), CA2 (81+/-8% of control, P<0.05) and CA1 (72+/-6% of control, P<0.05) compared with control tissue. Additionally, a significant up-regulation in type III mRNA in epileptic CA4 pyramidal cells (145+/-7% of control, P<0.05) was observed. It is not clear whether these changes play a causal role in human epilepsy or whether they are secondary to seizures or drug treatment; further studies are necessary to investigate these alternatives. However, it is likely that such changes would affect the intrinsic excitability of hippocampal neurones.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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