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Adv Pharmacol Sci. 2011;2011:790590. doi: 10.1155/2011/790590. Epub 2011 Sep 5.

Augmentation of Tonic GABA(A) Inhibition in Absence Epilepsy: Therapeutic Value of Inverse Agonists at Extrasynaptic GABA(A) Receptors.

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1
School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Museum Avenue, Cardiff CF10 3US, UK.

Abstract

It is well established that impaired GABAergic inhibition within neuronal networks can lead to hypersynchronous firing patterns that are the typical cellular hallmark of convulsive epileptic seizures. However, recent findings have highlighted that a pathological enhancement of GABAergic signalling within thalamocortical circuits is a necessary and sufficient condition for nonconvulsive typical absence seizure genesis. In particular, increased activation of extrasynaptic GABA(A) receptors (eGABA(A)R) and augmented "tonic" GABA(A) inhibition in thalamocortical neurons have been demonstrated across a range of genetic and pharmacological models of absence epilepsy. Moreover, evidence from monogenic mouse models (stargazer/lethargic) and the polygenic Genetic Absence Epilepsy Rats from Strasbourg (GAERS) indicate that the mechanism underlying eGABA(A)R gain of function is nonneuronal in nature and results from a deficiency in astrocytic GABA uptake through the GAT-1 transporter. These results challenge the existing theory that typical absence seizures are underpinned by a widespread loss of GABAergic function in thalamocortical circuits and illustrate a vital role for astrocytes in the pathology of typical absence epilepsy. Moreover, they explain why pharmacological agents that enhance GABA receptor function can initiate or exacerbate absence seizures and suggest a potential therapeutic role for inverse agonists at eGABA(A)Rs in absence epilepsy.

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