Caffeine and an adenosine A2A receptor antagonist prevent memory impairment and synaptotoxicity in adult rats triggered by a convulsive episode in early life


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Rodrigo A. Cunha, Center for Neuroscience of Coimbra, Institute of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra, 3004-504 Coimbra, Portugal. E-mail:


Seizures early in life cause long-term behavioral modifications, namely long-term memory deficits in experimental animals. Since caffeine and adenosine A2A receptor (A2AR) antagonists prevent memory deficits in adult animals, we now investigated if they also prevented the long-term memory deficits caused by a convulsive period early in life. Administration of kainate (KA, 2 mg/kg) to 7-days-old (P7) rats caused a single period of self-extinguishable convulsions which lead to a poorer memory performance in the Y-maze only when rats were older than 90 days, without modification of locomotion or anxiety-like behavior in the elevated-plus maze. In accordance with the relationship between synaptotoxicity and memory dysfunction, the hippocampus of these adult rats treated with kainate at P7 displayed a lower density of synaptic proteins such as SNAP-25 and syntaxin (but not synaptophysin), as well as vesicular glutamate transporters type 1 (but not vesicular GABA transporters), with no changes in PSD-95, NMDA receptor subunits (NR1, NR2A, NR2B) or α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionate receptor subunits (GluR1, GluR2) compared with controls. Caffeine (1 g/L) or the A2AR antagonist, KW6002 (3 mg/kg) applied in the drinking water from P21 onwards, prevented these memory deficits in P90 rats treated with KA at P7, as well as the accompanying synaptotoxicity. These results show that a single convulsive episode in early life causes a delayed memory deficit in adulthood accompanied by a glutamatergic synaptotoxicity that was prevented by caffeine or adenosine A2AR antagonists.