Alterations of hippocampal GABAergic system contribute to development of spontaneous recurrent seizures in the rat lithium-pilocarpine model of temporal lobe epilepsy



Reorganization of excitatory and inhibitory circuits in the hippocampal formation following seizure-induced neuronal loss has been proposed to underlie the development of chronic seizures in temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). Here, we investigated whether specific morphological alterations of the GABAergic system can be related to the onset of spontaneous recurrent seizures (SRS) in the rat lithium-pilocarpine model of TLE. Immunohistochemical staining for markers of interneurons and their projections, including parvalbumin (PV), calretinin (CR), calbindin (CB), glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), and type 1 GABA transporter (GAT1), was performed in brain sections of rats treated with lithium-pilocarpine and sacrificed after 24 h, during the silent phase (6 and 12 days), or after the onset of SRS (10–18 days after treatment). Semiquantitative analysis revealed a selective loss of interneurons in the stratum oriens of CA1, associated with a reduction of GAT1 staining in the stratum radiatum and stratum oriens. In contrast, interneurons in CA3 were largely preserved, although GAT1 staining was also reduced. These changes occurred within 6 days after treatment and were therefore insufficient to cause SRS. In the dentate gyrus, extensive cell loss occurred in the hilus. The pericellular innervation of granule cells by PV-positive axons was markedly reduced, although the loss of PV-interneurons was only partial. Most strikingly, the density of GABAergic axons, positive for both GAD and GAT1, was dramatically increased in the inner molecular layer. This change emerged during the silent period, but was most marked in animals with SRS. Finally, supernumerary CB-positive neurons were detected in the hilus, selectively in rats with SRS. These findings suggest that alterations of GABAergic circuits occur early after lithium-pilocarpine-induced status epilepticus and contribute to epileptogenesis. In particular, the reorganization of GABAergic axons in the dentate gyrus might contribute to synchronize hyperexcitability induced by the interneuron loss during the silent period, leading to the onset of chronic seizures. Hippocampus 2001;11:452–468. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.