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van Vliet EA, da Costa Araujo S, Redeker S, van Schaik R, Aronica E, Gorter JA. Brain 2007;130(Pt 2):521–534. Leakage of the blood–brain barrier (BBB) is associated with various neurological disorders, including temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). However, it is not known whether alterations of the BBB occur during epileptogenesis and whether this can affect progression of epilepsy. We used both human and rat epileptic brain tissue and determined BBB permeability using various tracers and albumin immunocytochemistry. In addition, we studied the possible consequences of BBB opening in the rat for the subsequent progression of TLE. Albumin extravasation in human was prominent after status epilepticus (SE) in astrocytes and neurons, and also in hippocampus of TLE patients. Similarly, albumin and tracers were found in microglia, astrocytes and neurons of the rat. The BBB was permeable in rat limbic brain regions shortly after SE, but also in the latent and chronic epileptic phase. BBB permeability was positively correlated to seizure frequency in chronic epileptic rats. Artificial opening of the BBB by mannitol in the chronic epileptic phase induced a persistent increase in the number of seizures in the majority of rats. These findings indicate that BBB leakage occurs during epileptogenesis and the chronic epileptic phase and suggest that this can contribute to the progression of epilepsy.

Ivens S, Kaufer D, Flores LP, Bechmann I, Zumsteg D, Tomkins O, Seiffert E, Heinemann U, Friedman A. Brain 2007;130(Pt 2):535–547. It has long been recognized that insults to the cerebral cortex, such as trauma, ischaemia or infections, may result in the development of epilepsy, one of the most common neurological disorders. Human and animal studies have suggested that perturbations in neurovascular integrity and breakdown of the blood–brain barrier (BBB) lead to neuronal hypersynchronization and epileptiform activity, but the mechanisms underlying these processes are not known. In this study, we reveal a novel mechanism for epileptogenesis in the injured brain. We used focal neocortical, long-lasting BBB disruption or direct exposure to serum albumin in rats (51 and 13 animals, respectively, and 26 controls) as well as albumin exposure in brain slices in vitro. Most treated slices (72%, n= 189) displayed hypersynchronous propagating epileptiform field potentials when examined 5–49 days after treatment, but only 14% (n= 71) of control slices showed similar responses. We demonstrate that direct brain exposure to serum albumin is associated with albumin uptake into astrocytes, which is mediated by transforming growth factor β receptors (TGF-βRs). This uptake is followed by down regulation of inward-rectifying potassium (Kir 4.1) channels in astrocytes, resulting in reduced buffering of extracellular potassium. This, in turn, leads to activity-dependent increased accumulation of extracellular potassium, resulting in facilitated N-methyl-D-aspartate-receptor-mediated neuronal hyperexcitability and eventually epileptiform activity. Blocking TGF-βR in vivo reduces the likelihood of epileptogenesis in albumin-exposed brains to 29.3% (n= 41 slices, P < 0.05). We propose that the above-described cascade of events following common brain insults leads to brain dysfunction and eventually epilepsy and suggest TGF-βRs as a possible therapeutic target.