Self-sustaining pathological loops may be involved in epilepsy. Indeed, it is clinically known that the occurrence of a seizure makes it likely that additional seizures will occur in the future. However, the underlying biology is not well understood. This application proposes to study specific mechanisms of network signaling that may be involved in a self-sustaining loop underlying some forms of intractable epilepsy. Our working hypothesis is based on the fact that seizures often damage the brain regions involved, such as the hippocampus, and induce reactive changes and proliferation of astrocytes and microglia. Both cell types are a rich source of the chemokine stromal cell-derived factor 1 (SDF-1), whose CXCR4 receptors are abundantly expressed by hippocampal Cajal-Retzius cells. We will study the synaptic interactions between Cajal-Retzius cells and GABAergic interneurons, and how their network dynamics are affected by SDF-1. Our preliminary data suggest the possibility that SDF-1-mediated activation of Cajal-Retzius cells is the trigger of epileptiform activity in GABAergic networks. Epileptiform synchronization of GABAergic interneurons in some patients unresponsive to pharmacological treatment is believed to generate excitatory GABAA receptor-mediated signaling, which may lead to interictal-ictal transitions and promote seizures. Thus, new seizures would be produced, and additional reactive gliosis would maintain or even increase the available levels of SDF-1, restarting the pathological loop. Defining the molecular and cellular details of a putative circuit initiating/maintaining epileptiform activity in GABAergic networks is important to provide new insights for the development of different therapeutic strategies for the prevention and/or control of some forms of intractable epilepsies. We plan to use a combination of in vitro electrophysiology and anatomy applied to slices obtained from genetically-engineered animals (CXCR4-EGFP transgenic mice).

Public Health Relevance

The purpose of this application is to identify novel neuronal mechanisms that contribute to epileptogenesis in a specific microcircuit of the hippocampus, which is a brain region with a low threshold for seizures. In more detail, this proposal concerns epileptiform activity in vitro that is sustained by excitatory GABAergic input and is similar to dynamic patterns occurring in some epileptic patients who do not respond to conventional therapies. These epileptic patients require surgical removal of the epileptic focus: hence understanding the cellular details underlying their illness is imperative to provide new strategies for medical treatments. .

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 Medicine
United States
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Anstötz, Max; Lee, Sun Kyong; Neblett, Tamra I et al. (2018) Experience-Dependent Regulation of Cajal-Retzius Cell Networks in the Developing and Adult Mouse Hippocampus. Cereb Cortex 28:672-687
Anstötz, Max; Quattrocolo, Giulia; Maccaferri, Gianmaria (2018) Cajal-Retzius cells and GABAergic interneurons of the developing hippocampus: Close electrophysiological encounters of the third kind. Brain Res 1697:124-133
Anstötz, Max; Huang, Hao; Marchionni, Ivan et al. (2016) Developmental Profile, Morphology, and Synaptic Connectivity of Cajal-Retzius Cells in the Postnatal Mouse Hippocampus. Cereb Cortex 26:855-72
Anstötz, Max; Cosgrove, Kathleen E; Hack, Iris et al. (2014) Morphology, input-output relations and synaptic connectivity of Cajal-Retzius cells in layer 1 of the developing neocortex of CXCR4-EGFP mice. Brain Struct Funct 219:2119-39
Quattrocolo, Giulia; Maccaferri, Gianmaria (2014) Optogenetic activation of cajal-retzius cells reveals their glutamatergic output and a novel feedforward circuit in the developing mouse hippocampus. J Neurosci 34:13018-32
Quattrocolo, Giulia; Maccaferri, Gianmaria (2013) Novel GABAergic circuits mediating excitation/inhibition of Cajal-Retzius cells in the developing hippocampus. J Neurosci 33:5486-98
Marchionni, Ivan; Beaumont, Michael; Maccaferri, Gianmaria (2012) The chemokine CXCL12 and the HIV-1 envelope protein gp120 regulate spontaneous activity of Cajal-Retzius cells in opposite directions. J Physiol 590:3185-202
Cosgrove, Kathleen E; Maccaferri, Gianmaria (2012) mGlu1?-dependent recruitment of excitatory GABAergic input to neocortical Cajal-Retzius cells. Neuropharmacology 63:486-93
Maccaferri, Gianmaria (2011) Modulation of hippocampal stratum lacunosum-moleculare microcircuits. J Physiol 589:1885-91
Maccaferri, Gianmaria (2011) Microcircuit-specific processing in the hippocampus. J Physiol 589:1873-4

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