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Keywords:

  • Timm stain;
  • Dentate gyrus;
  • Granule cell;
  • Hypertrophy;
  • Hilar neurons;
  • Rapamycin

Summary

Purpose:  Dentate granule cell axon (mossy fiber) sprouting creates an aberrant positive-feedback circuit that might be epileptogenic. Presumably, mossy fiber sprouting is initiated by molecular signals, but it is unclear whether they are expressed transiently or persistently. If transient, there might be a critical period when short preventative treatments could permanently block mossy fiber sprouting. Alternatively, if signals persist, continuous treatment would be necessary. The present study tested whether temporary treatment with rapamycin has long-term effects on mossy fiber sprouting.

Methods:  Mice were treated daily with 1.5 mg/kg rapamycin or vehicle (i.p.) beginning 24 h after pilocarpine-induced status epilepticus. Mice were perfused for anatomic evaluation immediately after 2 months of treatment (“0 delay”) or after an additional 6 months without treatment (“6-month delay”). One series of sections was Timm-stained, and an adjacent series was Nissl-stained. Stereologic methods were used to measure the volume of the granule cell layer plus molecular layer and the Timm-positive fraction. Numbers of Nissl-stained hilar neurons were estimated using the optical fractionator method.

Key Findings:  At 0 delay, rapamycin-treated mice had significantly less black Timm staining in the granule cell layer plus molecular layer than vehicle-treated animals. However, by 6-month delay, Timm staining had increased significantly in mice that had been treated with rapamycin. Percentages of the granule cell layer plus molecular layer that were Timm-positive were high and similar in 0 delay vehicle-treated, 6-month delay vehicle-treated, and 6-month delay rapamycin-treated mice. Extent of hilar neuron loss was similar among all groups that experienced status epilepticus and, therefore, was not a confounding factor. Compared to naive controls, average volume of the granule cell layer plus molecular layer was larger in 0 delay vehicle-treated mice. The hypertrophy was partially suppressed in 0 delay rapamycin-treated mice. However, 6-month delay vehicle- and 6-month delay rapamycin-treated animals had similar average volumes of the granule cell layer plus molecular layer that were significantly larger than those of all other groups.

Significance:  Status epilepticus–induced mossy fiber sprouting and dentate gyrus hypertrophy were suppressed by systemic treatment with rapamycin but resumed after treatment ceased. These findings suggest that molecular signals that drive mossy fiber sprouting and dentate gyrus hypertrophy might persist for >2 months after status epilepticus in mice. Therefore, prolonged or continuous treatment might be required to permanently suppress mossy fiber sprouting.