More than one-third of women with epilepsy have a catamenial seizure pattern, in which seizures fluctuate with the menstrual cycle. Catamenial seizures are due, in part, to effects of estradiol and progesterone on the neural circuitry that supports seizures, such as in the hippocampus.
Our research aims to understand how estradiol's effects on synapses in the hippocampus contribute to altered seizure patterns, with the goal of identifying targets for novel anti-seizure therapies. Preliminary studies point to regulation of presynaptic release at inhibitory synapses in the hippocampus as an important mode of estradiol action that has a profound impact on hippocampus-dependent seizures. We find that twenty-four hours of estradiol treatment has two simultaneous and opposing effects on seizures: it increases seizure susceptibility, and at the same time, decreases seizure severity. The estradiol-induced increase in seizure susceptibility appears to be related to suppression of GABA release from inhibitory synapses, whereas the decrease in seizure severity is due to enhanced release of the anti-convulsant neuropeptide, neuropeptide Y. Furthermore, we find that clusters of small vesicles and some large dense core vesicles in inhibitory presynaptic boutons are immunoreactive for estrogen receptors. This suggests that estradiol exerts its effects on release of GABA and neuropeptide Y by acting at the level of presynaptic boutons, possibly directly on vesicles themselves. In support of direct action on inhibitory synapses, we also have discovered that estradiol can acutely, i.e., within minutes, suppress inhibitory synaptic transmission in the hippocampus. Together, these studies suggest novel presynaptic mechanisms by which estradiol influences hippocampal physiology and hippocampus-dependent seizures. We will use a combination of whole-cell voltage clamp recording in brain slices from rats and mice, light and electron microscopic studies of synapses and vesicles, cell fractionation and immunoisolation of vesicles, and behavioral analyses of seizures to investigate how estradiol regulation of inhibitory synapses in the hippocampus influences seizure patterns. Our studies will be divided into 3 specific aims to investigate: 1) estradiol suppression of GABAergic synaptic inhibition;2) estradiol facilitation of neuropeptide Y release;and 3) how estradiol's effects on GABA and neuropeptide Y release influence seizure susceptibility and/or severity, both acutely and on a longer time scale.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed research will investigate novel mechanisms by which the hormone, estrogen, regulates the release of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides at synapses in the hippocampus, a key brain region in epilepsy. Understanding the mechanisms by which estrogen influences hippocampal synaptic function is important to identify cellular and molecular targets for novel anti-seizure therapies.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Project (R01)
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Clinical Neuroplasticity and Neurotransmitters Study Section (CNNT)
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Whittemore, Vicky R
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Northwestern University at Chicago
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Sato, Satoru M; Woolley, Catherine S (2016) Acute inhibition of neurosteroid estrogen synthesis suppresses status epilepticus in an animal model. Elife 5:
Shansky, Rebecca M; Woolley, Catherine S (2016) Considering Sex as a Biological Variable Will Be Valuable for Neuroscience Research. J Neurosci 36:11817-11822
Tabatadze, Nino; Woolley, Catherine (2016) Measurement of Inositol Triphosphate Levels from Rat Hippocampal Slices. Bio Protoc 6:
Tabatadze, Nino; Huang, Guangzhe; May, Renee M et al. (2015) Sex Differences in Molecular Signaling at Inhibitory Synapses in the Hippocampus. J Neurosci 35:11252-65
Tabatadze, Nino; Sato, Satoru M; Woolley, Catherine S (2014) Quantitative analysis of long-form aromatase mRNA in the male and female rat brain. PLoS One 9:e100628
May, Renee M; Tabatadze, Nino; Czech, Mary M et al. (2014) Estradiol regulates large dense core vesicles in the hippocampus of adult female rats. Brain Struct Funct 219:1947-54
Tabatadze, Nino; Smejkalova, Tereza; Woolley, Catherine S (2013) Distribution and posttranslational modification of synaptic ER* in the adult female rat hippocampus. Endocrinology 154:819-30
Huang, Guang Zhe; Woolley, Catherine S (2012) Estradiol acutely suppresses inhibition in the hippocampus through a sex-specific endocannabinoid and mGluR-dependent mechanism. Neuron 74:801-8
Snyder, Melissa A; Cooke, Bradley M; Woolley, Catherine S (2011) Estradiol potentiation of NR2B-dependent EPSCs is not due to changes in NR2B protein expression or phosphorylation. Hippocampus 21:398-408
Smejkalova, Tereza; Woolley, Catherine S (2010) Estradiol acutely potentiates hippocampal excitatory synaptic transmission through a presynaptic mechanism. J Neurosci 30:16137-48

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