Pathological alterations in GABAergic interneurons and reduced tonic inhibition in the basolateral amygdala during epileptogenesis

B. Fritsch, F. Qashu, T. H. Figueiredo, V. Aroniadou-Anderjaska, Michael A Rogawski, M. F M Braga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


An acute brain insult such as traumatic head/brain injury, stroke, or an episode of status epilepticus can trigger epileptogenesis, which, after a latent, seizure-free period, leads to epilepsy. The discovery of effective pharmacological interventions that can prevent the development of epilepsy requires knowledge of the alterations that occur during epileptogenesis in brain regions that play a central role in the induction and expression of epilepsy. In the present study, we investigated pathological alterations in GABAergic interneurons in the rat basolateral amygdala (BLA), and the functional impact of these alterations on inhibitory synaptic transmission, on days 7 to 10 after status epilepticus induced by kainic acid. Using design-based stereology combined with glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) 67 immunohistochemistry, we found a more extensive loss of GABAergic interneurons compared to the loss of principal cells. Fluoro-Jade C staining showed that neuronal degeneration was still ongoing. These alterations were accompanied by an increase in the levels of GAD and the α1 subunit of the GABAA receptor, and a reduction in the GluK1 (previously known as GluR5) subunit, as determined by Western blots. Whole-cell recordings from BLA pyramidal neurons showed a significant reduction in the frequency and amplitude of action potential-dependent spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs), a reduced frequency but not amplitude of miniature IPSCs, and impairment in the modulation of IPSCs via GluK1-containing kainate receptors (GluK1Rs). Thus, in the BLA, GABAergic interneurons are more vulnerable to seizure-induced damage than principal cells. Surviving interneurons increase their expression of GAD and the α1 GABAA receptor subunit, but this does not compensate for the interneuronal loss; the result is a dramatic reduction of tonic inhibition in the BLA circuitry. As activation of GluK1Rs by ambient levels of glutamate facilitates GABA release, the reduced level and function of these receptors may contribute to the reduction of tonic inhibitory activity. These alterations at a relatively early stage of epileptogenesis may facilitate the progress towards the development of epilepsy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-429
Number of pages15
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 29 2009


  • basolateral amygdala
  • epileptogenesis
  • inhibitory synaptic transmission
  • interneurons
  • kainate receptors
  • status epilepticus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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