Seizures, cell death, and mossy fiber sprouting in kainic acid-treated organotypic hippocampal cultures.
Sprouting of the mossy fiber axons of the dentate granule cells is a structural neuronal plasticity found in the mature brain of epileptic humans and experimental animals. Mossy fiber sprouting typically arises in experimental animals after repeated seizures and may contribute to the hyperexcitability of the epileptic brain. Investigation of the molecular triggers and spatial cues involved in mossy fiber sprouting has been hampered by the lack of an optimal in vitro model for studying this rearrangement. For an in vitro model to be feasible, the circuitry and receptors involved in convulsant-induced mossy fiber sprouting would have to be localized near the granule cells, rather than being dependent on long-range brain interconnections. However, it is not known whether this is the case. We report here that that application of the convulsant, kainic acid, to organotypic hippocampal explant cultures induces seizures, neuronal cell death, and subsequent dramatic mossy fiber sprouting with a similar laminar preference and time-course to that seen in intact animals. Prolonged (48 h) but not transient (4 h) kainic acid treatment caused regionally selective neuronal cell death. Cultures treated with kainic acid for a prolonged period displayed a time- and dose-dependent increase in supragranular Timm staining reflective of increased mossy fiber innervation to this area. Direct visualization of mossy fiber axons with neurobiotin-labeling revealed that mossy fibers in kainic acid-treated cultures exhibited a dramatic increase in supragranular axonal branch points and synaptic boutons. The cellular and molecular determinants required for kainic acid-induced cell death and subsequent mossy fiber reorganization thus appear to be intrinsic to the hippocampal slice preparation, and are preserved in culture. Given the ease with which functional inhibitors or pharmacological agents may be utilized in this system, slice cultures may provide a powerful model in which to study the molecular components involved in triggering mossy fiber outgrowth and underlying its laminar specificity. Elucidation of these molecular pathways will likely have both specific utility in clarifying the functional consequences of mossy fiber sprouting, as well as general utility in understanding of synaptic reorganization in the mature central nervous system.
Routbort, MJ; Bausch, SB; McNamara, JO
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