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Brain. 2009 Nov;132(Pt 11):3032-46. doi: 10.1093/brain/awp238. Epub 2009 Sep 18.

The epileptic human hippocampal cornu ammonis 2 region generates spontaneous interictal-like activity in vitro.

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INSERM U739, Faculté de Médecine Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris, France.


The dentate gyrus, the cornu ammonis 2 region and the subiculum of the human hippocampal formation are resistant to the cell loss associated with temporal lobe epilepsy. The subiculum, but not the dentate gyrus, generates interictal-like activity in tissue slices from epileptic patients. In this study, we asked whether a similar population activity is generated in the cornu ammonis 2 region and examined the electrophysiological and neuroanatomical characteristics of human epileptic cornu ammonis 2 neurons that may be involved. Hippocampal slices were prepared from postoperative temporal lobe tissue derived from epileptic patients. Field potentials and multi-unit activity were recorded in vitro using multiple extracellular microelectrodes. Pyramidal cells were characterized in intra-cellular records and were filled with biocytin for subsequent anatomy. Fluorescent immunostaining was made on fixed tissue against the chloride-cation cotransporters sodium-potassium-chloride cotransporter-1 and potassium-chloride cotransporter-2. Light and electron microscopy were used to examine the parvalbumin-positive perisomatic inhibitory network. In 15 of 20 slices, the hippocampal cornu ammonis 2 region generated a spontaneous interictal-like activity, independently of population events in the subiculum. Most cornu ammonis 2 pyramidal cells fired spontaneously. All cells fired single action potentials and burst firing was evoked in three cells. Spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic potentials were recorded in all cells, but hyperpolarizing inhibitory postsynaptic potentials were detected in only 27% of the cells. Two-thirds of cornu ammonis 2 neurons showed depolarizing responses during interictal-like events, while the others were inhibited, according to the current sink in the cell body layer. Two biocytin-filled cells both showed a pyramidal-like morphology with axons projecting to the cornu ammonis 2 and cornu ammonis 3 regions. Expression of sodium-potassium-chloride cotransporter-1 and potassium-chloride cotransporter-2 was reduced in some cells of the epileptic cornu ammonis 2 region, but not to an extent corresponding to the proportion of cells in which hyperpolarizing postsynaptic potentials were absent. Numbers of parvalbumin-positive inhibitory cells and axons were shown to be decreased in the epileptic tissue. Electron microscopy showed the preservation of somatic inhibitory input of cornu ammonis 2 cells, and confirmed the loss of parvalbumin from the interneurons rather than their death. An extra excitatory input (partly coming from sprouted mossy fibres) was demonstrated to innervate cornu ammonis 2 cell bodies. Our results show that the cornu ammonis 2 region of the sclerotic human hippocampus can generate an independent epileptiform activity. Inhibitory and excitatory signalling were functional but modified in epileptic cornu ammonis 2 pyramidal cells. Overexcitation and the altered functional properties of perisomatic inhibitory network, rather than a modified chloride homeostasis, may account for the perturbed gamma-aminobutyric acid-ergic signalling and the generation of interictal-like activity in the human epileptic cornu ammonis 2 region.

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