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Prog Brain Res. 2002;135:111-9.

Neuronal apoptosis after brief and prolonged seizures.

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Department of Neurosurgery, University Hospital, S-221 85 Lund, Sweden.


Evidence has accumulated that apoptotic cell death contributes to brain damage following experimental seizures. A substantial number of degenerating neurons within limbic regions display morphological features of apoptosis following prolonged seizures evoked by systemic or local injections of kainic acid, systemic injections of pilocarpine and sustained stimulation of the perforant path. Although longer periods of seizures consistently result in brain damage, it has previously not been clear whether brief single or intermittent seizures lead to cell death. However, recent results indicate that also single seizures lead to apoptotic neuronal death. A brief, non-convulsive seizure evoked by kindling stimulation was found to produce apoptotic neurons bilaterally in the rat dentate gyrus. The mechanism triggering and mediating apoptotic degeneration is at present being studied. Alterations in the expression and activity of cell-death regulatory proteins such as members of the Bcl-2 family and the cysteinyl aspartate-specific proteinase (caspase) family occur in regions vulnerable to cell degeneration, suggesting an involvement of these factors in mediating apoptosis following seizures. Findings of decreased apoptotic cell death following administration of caspase inhibitors prior to and following experimentally induced status epilepticus, further suggest a role for caspases in seizure-evoked neuronal degeneration. Intermediate forms of cell death with both necrotic and apoptotic features have been found after seizures and investigation into the detailed mechanisms of the different forms of cell degeneration is needed before attempts to specific prevention can be made.

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