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Concept: Epilepsy


In mammals, odorants are detected by a large family of receptors that are each expressed in just a small subset of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs). Here we describe a strain of transgenic mice engineered to express an octanal receptor in almost all OSNs. Remarkably, octanal triggered a striking and involuntary phenotype in these animals, with passive exposure regularly inducing seizures. Octanal exposure invariably resulted in widespread activation of OSNs but interestingly seizures only occurred in 30-40% of trials. We hypothesized that this reflects the need for the olfactory system to filter strong but slowly-changing backgrounds from salient signals. Therefore we used an olfactometer to control octanal delivery and demonstrated suppression of responses whenever this odorant is delivered slowly. By contrast, rapid exposure of the mice to octanal induced seizure in every trial. Our results expose new details of olfactory processing and provide a robust and non-invasive platform for studying epilepsy.

Concepts: Sensory system, Olfactory receptor neuron, Olfaction, Epilepsy, Olfactory receptor, Seizure, Odor, Sensory neuron


Neural stimulation can reduce the frequency of seizures in persons with epilepsy, but rates of seizure-free outcome are low. Vagus nerve stimulation prevents seizures by continuously activating noradrenergic projections from the brainstem to the cortex. Cortical norepinephrine then increases GABAergic transmission and increases seizure threshold. Another approach, responsive nervous stimulation, prevents seizures by reactively shocking the seizure onset zone in precise synchrony with seizure onset. The electrical shocks abort seizures before they can spread and manifest clinically. The goal of this study was to determine whether a hybrid platform in which brainstem activation triggered in response to impending seizure activity could prevent seizures. We chose the zebrafish as a model organism for this study because of its ability to recapitulate human disease, in conjunction with its innate capacity for tightly controlled high-throughput experimentation. We first set out to determine whether electrical stimulation of the zebrafish hindbrain could have an anticonvulsant effect. We found that pulse train electrical stimulation of the hindbrain significantly increased the latency to onset of pentylenetetrazole-induced seizures, and that this apparent anticonvulsant effect was blocked by noradrenergic antagonists, as is also the case with rodents and humans. We also found that the anticonvulsant effect of hindbrain stimulation could be potentiated by reactive triggering of single pulse electrical stimulations in response to impending seizure activity. Finally, we found that the rate of stimulation triggering was directly proportional to pentylenetetrazole concentration and that the stimulation rate was reduced by the anticonvulsant valproic acid and by larger stimulation currents. Taken as a whole, these results show that that the anticonvulsant effect of brainstem activation can be efficiently utilized by reactive triggering, which suggests that alternative stimulation paradigms for vagus nerve stimulation might be useful. Moreover, our results show that the zebrafish epilepsy model can be used to advance our understanding of neural stimulation in the treatment of epilepsy.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neurology, Cranial nerves, Epilepsy, Vagus nerve stimulation, Anticonvulsant, Seizure, Status epilepticus


Genetic generalized epilepsies (GGEs) have a lifetime prevalence of 0.3% and account for 20-30% of all epilepsies. Despite their high heritability of 80%, the genetic factors predisposing to GGEs remain elusive. To identify susceptibility variants shared across common GGE syndromes, we carried out a two-stage genome-wide association study (GWAS) including 3020 patients with GGEs and 3954 controls of European ancestry. To dissect out syndrome-related variants, we also explored two distinct GGE subgroups comprising 1434 patients with genetic absence epilepsies (GAEs) and 1134 patients with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME). Joint Stage-1 and 2 analyses revealed genome-wide significant associations for GGEs at 2p16.1 (rs13026414, P(meta) = 2.5 × 10(-9), OR[T] = 0.81) and 17q21.32 (rs72823592, P(meta) = 9.3 × 10(-9), OR[A] = 0.77). The search for syndrome-related susceptibility alleles identified significant associations for GAEs at 2q22.3 (rs10496964, P(meta) = 9.1 × 10(-9), OR[T] = 0.68) and at 1q43 for JME (rs12059546, P(meta) = 4.1 × 10(-8), OR[G] = 1.42). Suggestive evidence for an association with GGEs was found in the region 2q24.3 (rs11890028, P(meta) = 4.0 × 10(-6)) nearby the SCN1A gene, which is currently the gene with the largest number of known epilepsy-related mutations. The associated regions harbor high-ranking candidate genes: CHRM3 at 1q43, VRK2 at 2p16.1, ZEB2 at 2q22.3, SCN1A at 2q24.3 and PNPO at 17q21.32. Further replication efforts are necessary to elucidate whether these positional candidate genes contribute to the heritability of the common GGE syndromes.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Allele, Genome-wide association study, Epilepsy, Myoclonus, Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy



To evaluate the risk of severe cutaneous adverse drug reactions (SCAR) after exposure to multi-indication antiepileptic drugs for in Korean elderly patients.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Illness, Epilepsy, Adverse drug reaction, Anticonvulsant, Benzodiazepine, Carbamazepine, Primidone


The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) has increased 20-fold over the past 50 years to >1% of US children. Although twin studies attest to a high degree of heritability, the genetic risk factors are still poorly understood. We analyzed data from two independent populations using u-statistics for genetically structured wide-locus data and added data from unrelated controls to explore epistasis. To account for systematic, but disease-unrelated differences in (non-randomized) genome-wide association studies (GWAS), a correlation between P-values and minor allele frequency with low granularity data and for conducting multiple tests in overlapping genetic regions, we present a novel study-specific criterion for ‘genome-wide significance’. From recent results in a comorbid disease, childhood absence epilepsy, we had hypothesized that axonal guidance and calcium signaling are involved in autism as well. Enrichment of the results in both studies with related genes confirms this hypothesis. Additional ASD-specific variations identified in this study suggest protracted growth factor signaling as causing more severe forms of ASD. Another cluster of related genes suggests chloride and potassium ion channels as additional ASD-specific drug targets. The involvement of growth factors suggests the time of accelerated neuronal growth and pruning at 9-24 months of age as the period during which treatment with ion channel modulators would be most effective in preventing progression to more severe forms of autism. By extension, the same computational biostatistics approach could yield profound insights into the etiology of many common diseases from the genetic data collected over the last decade.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Signal transduction, Action potential, Epilepsy, Absence seizure, Potassium channel, Neurological disorders


The relationship between monogenic and polygenic forms of epilepsy is poorly understood and the extent to which the genetic and acquired epilepsies share common pathways is unclear. Here, we use an integrated systems-level analysis of brain gene expression data to identify molecular networks disrupted in epilepsy.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Epilepsy, Anticonvulsant, Diazepam


Temporal lobe epilepsy or limbic epilepsy lacks effective therapies due to a void in understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that set in motion aberrant neuronal network formations during the course of limbic epileptogenesis (LE). Here we show in in vivo rodent models of LE that the phospholipid mediator platelet-activating factor (PAF) increases in LE and that PAF receptor (PAF-r) ablation mitigates its progression. Synthetic PAF-r antagonists, when administered intraperitoneally in LE, re-establish hippocampal dendritic spine density and prevent formation of dysmorphic dendritic spines. Concomitantly, hippocampal interictal spikes, aberrant oscillations, and neuronal hyper-excitability, evaluated 15-16 weeks after LE using multi-array silicon probe electrodes implanted in the dorsal hippocampus, are reduced in PAF-r antagonist-treated mice. We suggest that over-activation of PAF-r signaling induces aberrant neuronal plasticity in LE and leads to chronic dysfunctional neuronal circuitry that mediates epilepsy.

Concepts: Cerebral cortex, Temporal lobe, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Epilepsy, Temporal lobe epilepsy, Hippocampal sclerosis, Dendritic spine


Phagocytosis is essential to maintain tissue homeostasis in a large number of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, but its role in the diseased brain is poorly explored. Recent findings suggest that in the adult hippocampal neurogenic niche, where the excess of newborn cells undergo apoptosis in physiological conditions, phagocytosis is efficiently executed by surveillant, ramified microglia. To test whether microglia are efficient phagocytes in the diseased brain as well, we confronted them with a series of apoptotic challenges and discovered a generalized response. When challenged with excitotoxicity in vitro (via the glutamate agonist NMDA) or inflammation in vivo (via systemic administration of bacterial lipopolysaccharides or by omega 3 fatty acid deficient diets), microglia resorted to different strategies to boost their phagocytic efficiency and compensate for the increased number of apoptotic cells, thus maintaining phagocytosis and apoptosis tightly coupled. Unexpectedly, this coupling was chronically lost in a mouse model of mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (MTLE) as well as in hippocampal tissue resected from individuals with MTLE, a major neurological disorder characterized by seizures, excitotoxicity, and inflammation. Importantly, the loss of phagocytosis/apoptosis coupling correlated with the expression of microglial proinflammatory, epileptogenic cytokines, suggesting its contribution to the pathophysiology of epilepsy. The phagocytic blockade resulted from reduced microglial surveillance and apoptotic cell recognition receptor expression and was not directly mediated by signaling through microglial glutamate receptors. Instead, it was related to the disruption of local ATP microgradients caused by the hyperactivity of the hippocampal network, at least in the acute phase of epilepsy. Finally, the uncoupling led to an accumulation of apoptotic newborn cells in the neurogenic niche that was due not to decreased survival but to delayed cell clearance after seizures. These results demonstrate that the efficiency of microglial phagocytosis critically affects the dynamics of apoptosis and urge to routinely assess the microglial phagocytic efficiency in neurodegenerative disorders.

Concepts: Immune system, Phagocytosis, Apoptosis, Neurology, Temporal lobe, Hippocampus, Epilepsy, Temporal lobe epilepsy


Glial cells are now recognized as active communication partners in the central nervous system, and this new perspective has rekindled the question of their role in pathology. In the present study we analysed functional properties of astrocytes in hippocampal specimens from patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy without (n = 44) and with sclerosis (n = 75) combining patch clamp recording, K(+) concentration analysis, electroencephalography/video-monitoring, and fate mapping analysis. We found that the hippocampus of patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy with sclerosis is completely devoid of bona fide astrocytes and gap junction coupling, whereas coupled astrocytes were abundantly present in non-sclerotic specimens. To decide whether these glial changes represent cause or effect of mesial temporal lobe epilepsy with sclerosis, we developed a mouse model that reproduced key features of human mesial temporal lobe epilepsy with sclerosis. In this model, uncoupling impaired K(+) buffering and temporally preceded apoptotic neuronal death and the generation of spontaneous seizures. Uncoupling was induced through intraperitoneal injection of lipopolysaccharide, prevented in Toll-like receptor4 knockout mice and reproduced in situ through acute cytokine or lipopolysaccharide incubation. Fate mapping confirmed that in the course of mesial temporal lobe epilepsy with sclerosis, astrocytes acquire an atypical functional phenotype and lose coupling. These data suggest that astrocyte dysfunction might be a prime cause of mesial temporal lobe epilepsy with sclerosis and identify novel targets for anti-epileptogenic therapeutic intervention.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Temporal lobe, Hippocampus, Epilepsy, Gap junction, Temporal lobe epilepsy