Summary: Purpose: Seizure susceptibility and consequences are highly age dependent. To understand the pathophysiologic mechanisms involved in seizures and their consequences during development, we investigated the role of nitric oxide (NO) in severe pentylenetetrazol (PTZ)-induced seizures in immature rats.
Methods: Four cortical electrodes were implanted in 10-day-old (P10) and 21-day-old (P21) rats, and seizures were induced on the following day by repetitive injections of subconvulsive doses of PTZ. The effects of NG-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester (l-NAME; 10 mg/kg) and 7-nitroindazole (7NI; 40 mg/kg), two NO synthase (NOS) inhibitors, and l-arginine (l-arg; 300 mg/kg), the NOS substrate, were evaluated regarding the mean PTZ dose, seizure type and duration, and mortality rate.
Results: At P10, the postseizure mortality rate increased from 18–29% for the rats receiving PTZ only to 100% and 89% for the rats receiving l-NAME and 7NI, respectively; whereas l-arg had no effect. Conversely, at P21, NOS inhibitors did not affect the 82–89% mortality rate induced by PTZ alone, whereas l-arg decreased the mortality rate to 29%. In addition, all NO-related drugs increased the duration of ictal activity at P10, whereas at P21, L-arg and L-NAME affected the first seizure type, producing clonic seizures with L-arg and tonic seizures with L-NAME.
Conclusions: The relative natural protection of very immature rats (P10) against PTZ-induced deaths could be linked to a high availability of L-arg and, hence, endogenous NO. At P21, the modulation of seizure type by NO-related compounds may be related to the maturation of the brain circuitry, in particular the forebrain, which is involved in the expression of clonic seizures.