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Keywords:

  • dentate gyrus;
  • glutarnic acid decarboxylase (GAD);
  • epilepsy;
  • genetic models

Abstract

The brains of seizure-sensitive (SS) and seizure-resistant (SR) gerbils were studied with an immunocytochemical method to localize glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) to determine whether a defect existed in the inhibitory GABAergic system similar to that which has been reported in animal models of focal epilepsy in which GABAergic cell bodies and terminals are decreased in number. A major difference between the two strains of gerbils was found in the number of GABAergic neurons in the hippocampal formation. Specifically, a paradoxical increase occurred in the number of glutamate decarboxylase (GAD)-immunoreactive neurons: there were approximately 65% more GABAergic cells within the dentate gyrus and the CA3 region of the hippocampus in the SS gerbils. Furthermore, the density of GAD-immunoreactive puncta, the light microscopic correlates of synaptic boutons, was greater in the SS animals. Other histological methods were used to determine if the difference between SS and SR gerbils was specific for the GABAergic system. Nissl-stained preparations showed that the number of granule cells in the dentate gyrus was 20% greater in SS gerbils than in SR gerbils. An examination of some hippocampal afferents, efferents, and intrinsic connections with acetylcholinesterase histochemistry and the Timm's stain for heavy metals demonstrated no differences between the two strains. In addition, Golgi-stained preparations of the dentate gyrus indicated that the morphology of basket cells did not differ between the two strains nor between the gerbil and the rat.

Several brain regions in addition to the hippocampus were studied to determine whether or not the increased number of GAD-immunoreactive neurons was specific for the hippocampal formation. These regions included the substantia nigra, motor cortex, and nucleus reticularis thalami and were selected because they contain large populations of GABAergic neurons and have been implicated in seizure activity. No differences between the two strains were detected in any of these regions. Therefore, a major morphological difference between the brains of SS and SR gerbils exists in the hippocampal formation of SS gerbils in which an increase occurs in the number of GABAergic neurons and granule cells. If these additional inhibitory neurons act mainly to inhibit other inhibitory neurons, the net effect would be increased disinhibition of the principal excitatory neurons of the hippocampal formation. This could lead to seizure activity within the hippocampal formation and at distant sites through multiple synaptic connections.