Abnormalities in parvalbumin (PV) and somatostatin (SOM) interneurons are reported in a number of neurological disorders, including epilepsy. Therapy that improves function of defective interneurons is not available. Structural development and maintenance of interneurons is dependent on trophic support provided by brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) activation of TrkB receptors. In the undercut (UC) model of epileptogenic neocortical injury, chronic activation of TrkB-Rs with a selective small molecule partial agonist (LM22A-4, ?LM? below) has long-term effects to reverse structural and functional abnormalities in inhibitory terminals of PV interneurons, enhance GABA release and increase the threshold for evoking epileptiform activity and seizures. In order to determine whether these effects will be applicable to treatment or prevention of epilepsy in other models with different causes for seizures, such as genetic epilepsies, the Dravet syndrome (DS) mouse will be used in some experiments. Decreases in a membrane sodium channel in PV interneurons in DS mice causes decreased release of the inhibitory transmitter GABA, and development of spontaneous and high temperature-induced seizures. A variety of experimental approaches in DS and UC mice will be used to determine whether chronic treatment with LM, by increasing GABA release from nerve terminals of SOM and PV interneurons, or inducing new inhibitory synapse formation, will enhance inhibition in cortical networks and suppress epileptiform discharges: 1) immunocytochemistry and confocal imaging will be used to assess alterations in PV and SOM presynaptic terminals, including changes in expression of VGAT- and GAD65/67- IR, and the calcium sensor protein synaptotagmin 2; 2) analysis of density of SOM/- and PV/gephyrin close appositions to test for new inhibitory synapse formation induced by TrkB activation; 3) electrophysiological analysis of basic properties of inhibitory synaptic transmission from PV interneurons to pyramidal neurons of in vitro slices to detect effects of TrkB activation on unitary IPSCs, release probability and transmission failures; 3) laser scanning photostimulation of cortical slices from PV/CHR2 and SOM/CHR2 mice to map the distribution and strength of inhibitory connectivity in neocortical inhibitory circuits; and 4) video/EEG monitoring of implanted mice to assess effects of treatment with LM on spontaneous seizures and hyperthermia-induced seizures. Results of these experiments will provide information about mechanisms leading from interneuronal abnormalities to development of epilepsy and a potential approach to prophylaxis of epileptogenesis by enhancing trophic support of interneurons.

Public Health Relevance

Abnormalities in inhibitory neurons, or ?interneurons?, are thought to underlie abnormal brain function in epilepsy and in other neurological disorders, leading to the hypothesis that research into ways of enhancing interneuronal function might offer new approaches to treatment. Interneurons depend on what are termed ?trophic? molecules in the brain for their development and proper function. These experiments will test effects of supplying increased trophic factor to interneurons to increase their release of the inhibitory molecule GABA and thereby limit excessive activity in brain circuits and seizures in mouse models of epilepsy.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Whittemore, Vicky R
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Stanford University
Schools of Medicine
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Takahashi, D Koji; Gu, Feng; Parada, Isabel et al. (2016) Aberrant excitatory rewiring of layer V pyramidal neurons early after neocortical trauma. Neurobiol Dis 91:166-81