Stereologic estimation of hippocampal GluR2/3- and calretinin-immunoreactive hilar neurons (presumptive mossy cells) in two mouse models of temporal lobe epilepsy


Address correspondence to Thomas M. Freiman, Department of Neurosurgery, University Medical Center, Breisacher Strasse 64, D-79106 Freiburg, Germany. E-mail:


Purpose:  Hippocampal mossy cells receive dense innervation from dentate granule cells and, in turn, mossy cells innervate both granule cells and interneurons. Mossy cell loss is thought to trigger granule cell mossy fiber sprouting, which may affect granule cell excitability. The aim of this study was to quantify mossy cell loss in two animal models of temporal lobe epilepsy, and determine whether there exists a relationship between mossy cell loss, mossy fiber sprouting, and granule cell dispersion.

Methods:  Representative hippocampal sections from p35 knockout mice and mice with unilateral intrahippocampal kainate injection were immunolabeled for GluR2/3, two subunits of the amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionate (AMPA) receptor and calretinin to identify mossy cells. Mossy fibers were immunostained against synaptoporin.

Key Findings:  p35 Knockout mice showed no hilar cell death, but moderate mossy fiber sprouting and granule cell dispersion. In the kainate-injected hippocampus, there was an 80% and 85% reduction of GluR2/3- and GluR2/3/calretinin-positive hilar neurons, respectively, and dense mossy fiber sprouting and significant granule cell dispersion. In the contralateral hippocampus there was a 52% loss of GluR2/3-, but only a 20% loss of GluR2/3-calretinin-immunoreactive presumptive mossy cells, and granule cell dispersion; no mossy fiber sprouting was observed.

Significance:  These results indicate a probable lack of causality between mossy cell death and mossy fiber sprouting.