Disruption of Interneuron Development


  • This supplement is cosponsored by the American Epilepsy Society and the Center for Advanced Medical Education, Inc. Support for this activity has been made possible through an educational grant from Pfizer Inc.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Pat Levitt at Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development, PO Box 40, 230 Appleton Place, Nashville TN 37203-5701, U.S.A. E-mail: Pat.levitt@vanderbilt.edu


Summary:  Disruption of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABAergic) interneuron development during the embryonic and early postnatal periods can have profound neurological and behavioral consequences. Hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor (HGF/SF) has been identified as an important molecular cue that may guide the movement of interneurons from their birthplace in the ganglionic eminences (GE) to their final resting place in the neocortex. In vitro studies demonstrate that decreased HGF/SF bioactivity in pallial and subpallial tissues is associated with a reduction in the number of cells migrating out of GE explants. The uPAR knockout mouse provides a unique opportunity to study the effects of interneuron disruption in vivo. uPAR−/− mice have reduced HGF/SF bioactivity in the GE during the period of interneuron development and a concomitant 50% reduction in the number of GABAergic interneurons seeding frontal and parietal regions of the cerebral cortex. Behaviorally, these mice display an increased susceptibility to seizures, heightened anxiety, and diminished social interaction. This article discusses the commonalities between the functional defects seen in uPAR−/− mice and those of humans with developmental disorders, such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, and autism. It is suggested that disruption of GABAergic interneuron development may represent a common point of convergence underlying the etiologies of many of these developmental disorders.