Mossy Fiber Zinc and Temporal Lobe Epilepsy: Pathological Association with Altered “Epileptic”γ-Aminobutyric Acid A Receptors in Dentate Granule Cells

Authors

  • Douglas A. Coulter

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neurology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and the Pediatric Regional Epilepsy Program of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
      Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Douglas A. Coulter at Division of Neurology, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Abramson Research Building, Room 707B, 3516 Civic Center Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4318, U.S.A.
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Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Douglas A. Coulter at Division of Neurology, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Abramson Research Building, Room 707B, 3516 Civic Center Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4318, U.S.A.

Abstract

Summary: Temporal lobe epilepsy is associated with circuit rearrangements within the hippocampus. Mossy fibers sprout and pathologically innervate the inner molecular layer of the dentate gyrus, providing a recurrent excitatory pathway not present in the control brain. In addition to releasing glutamate, these recurrent collaterals also release zinc, which can accumulate in high concentrations in the extracellular space. Accompanying these dentate gyrus circuit rearrangements are alterations in the subunit expression patterns and pharmacology of γ-aminobutyric acid A (GABAA) receptors in dentate granule cells. In normal, control granule cells, GABAA receptors are zinc insensitive as a result of high levels of expression of the α1 subunit in these cells. In epileptic brain, expression of α1 subunits decreases and expression of α4 and δ subunits increases, leading to the assembly of GABAA receptors that are exquisitely zinc sensitive. This temporal and spatial association of the expression of zinc-sensitive GABAA receptors and the emergence of a zinc-delivery system unique to the epileptic hippocampus has led to the formulation of an hypothesis that suggests that zinc release during repetitive activation of the dentate gyrus may lead to a catastrophic failure of inhibition under conditions mediating seizure initiation. This could contribute to the limbic hyperexcitability characteristic of temporal lobe epilepsy.

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