Stereological analysis of GluR2-immunoreactive hilar neurons in the pilocarpine model of temporal lobe epilepsy: correlation of cell loss with mossy fiber sprouting.
Mossy fiber sprouting and the genesis of ectopic granule cells contribute to reverberating excitation in the dentate gyrus of epileptic brain. This study determined whether the extent of sprouting after status epilepticus in rats correlates with the seizure-induced degeneration of GluR2-immunoreactive (GluR2+) hilar neurons (presumptive mossy cells) and also quantitated granule cell-like GluR2-immunoreactive hilar neurons. Stereological cell counting indicated that GluR2+ neurons account for 57% of the total hilar neuron population. Prolonged pilocarpine-induced status epilepticus killed 95% of these cells. A smaller percentage of GluR2+ neurons (74%) was killed when status epilepticus was interrupted after 1-3.5 h with a single injection of phenobarbital, and the number of residual GluR2+ neurons varied among animals by a factor of 6.2. GluR2+ neurons were not necessarily more vulnerable than other hilar neurons. In rats administered phenobarbital, the extent of recurrent mossy fiber growth varied inversely and linearly with the number of GluR2+ hilar neurons that remained intact (P=0.0001). Thus the loss of each GluR2+ neuron was associated with roughly the same amount of sprouting. These findings support the hypothesis that mossy fiber sprouting is driven largely by the degeneration of and/or loss of innervation from mossy cells. Granule cell-like GluR2-immunoreactive neurons were rarely encountered in the hilus of control rats, but increased 6- to 140-fold after status epilepticus. Their number did not correlate with the extent of hilar cell death or mossy fiber sprouting in the same animal. The morphology, number, and distribution of these neurons suggested that they were hilar ectopic granule cells.
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