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Neuroscience. 2007 Mar 2;145(1):185-96. Epub 2007 Jan 3.

Differential expression patterns of chloride transporters, Na+-K+-2Cl--cotransporter and K+-Cl--cotransporter, in epilepsy-associated malformations of cortical development.

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Department of (Neuro) Pathology, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Malformations of cortical development are recognized causes of chronic medically intractable epilepsy. An increasing number of observations suggests an important role for cation-chloride co-transporters (CCTs) in controlling neuronal function. Deregulation of their expression may contribute to the mechanisms of hyperexcitability that lead to seizures. In the present study the expression and cell-specific distribution of Na+-K+-2Cl--cotransporter (NKCC1) and K+-Cl--cotransporter (KCC2) were studied immunocytochemically in different developmental lesions, including focal cortical dysplasia (FCD) type IIB (n=9), hemimegalencephaly (HMEG, n=6) and ganglioglioma (GG, n=9) from patients with medically intractable epilepsy and in age-matched controls. In normal control adult cortex, NKCC1 displayed low neuronal and glial expression levels. In contrast KCC2 showed strong and diffuse neuropil staining. Notable glial immunoreactivity (IR) was not found for KCC2. NKCC1 was highly expressed in the majority of FCD, HMEG and GG specimens. NKCC1 IR was observed in neurons of different size, including large dysplastic neurons, in balloon cells (in FCD and HMEG cases) and in glial cells with astrocytic morphology. The immunoreactivity pattern of KCC2 in FCD, HMEG and GG specimens was characterized by less neuropil staining and more intrasomatic IR compared with control. KCC2 IR was observed in neurons of different size, including large dysplastic neurons, but not in balloon cells or in glial cells with astrocytic morphology. Double-labeling experiments confirmed the differential cellular distribution of the two CCTs and their expression in GABA(A) receptor (alpha1 subunit)-positive dysplastic neurons. The cellular distribution of CCTs, with high expression of NKCC1 in dysplastic neurons and altered subcellular distribution of KCC2 resembles that of immature cortex and suggests a possible contribution of CCTs to the high epileptogenicity of malformations of cortical development.

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