It has been known for decades that there is a co-morbidity of depression in epilepsy and recently, depression has been identified as a risk factor for epilepsy, highlighting the overlap in the pathophysiology of these diseases. However, very few studies have addressed the mechanisms mediating the co-morbidity of depression and epilepsy. Stress is a trigger for both of these disorders, and we hypothesize that dysfunction in the body's stress response, mediated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, and may play a role in the co-morbidity of depression and epilepsy. A hallmark characteristic of depression is hyperexcitability of the HPA axis and seizure activity activates the HPA axis. The output of the HPA axis is mediated by corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) neurons in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN), the activity of which are under robust GABAergic control. This proposal will test the hypothesis that dysfunction in GABAergic control of the HPA axis results in hyperexcitability of the HPA axis, leading to increased seizure susceptibility. We have developed a sophisticated set of tools to test this hypothesis, including a novel, conditional knockout of one of the principal GABAARs regulating the HPA axis, the Gabrd gene. We intend to cross these mice with CRH-Cre mice to generate mice with GABAergic deficits specifically in the CRH neurons regulating the output of the HPA axis. Further, we will investigate whether an initial seizure insult alters GABAAR subunit expression in the PVN, as it does in other brain regions, thereby leading to HPA axis hyperexcitability and future seizures. Insight into the role of GABAergic control of the HPA axis in the co-morbidity of epilepsy and depression may identify novel therapeutic targets for both epilepsy and depression as well as the co-morbidity of the two, which complements the mission of the NINDS to reduce the burden of neurological diseases through research and the new strategic plan to identify new potential therapies for neurological diseases.
Insight into mechanisms underlying the significant co-morbidity of epilepsy and depression will have therapeutic potential for both of these disorders as well as the co-morbidity of the two. The body's stress response, which is under the control of the major inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA, has been implicated in the pathophysiology of these two diseases separately and we hypothesize may be involved in the co-morbidity. We have developed a unique mouse model, which is deficient in the GABAergic regulation of the stress response, to investigate the impact on the co-morbidity of depression and epilepsy.
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