This review highlights the role of major endogenous neurosteroids in seizure disorders and the promise of neurosteroid replacement therapy in epilepsy. Neurosteroids are endogenous modulators of seizure susceptibility. Neurosteroids such as allopregnanolone (3α-hydroxy-5α-pregnane-20-one) and allotetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone (3α,21-dihydroxy-5α-pregnan-20-one) are positive modulators of GABA-A receptors. Aside from peripheral tissues, neurosteroids are synthesized within the brain, mostly in principal neurons. Neurosteroids potentiate synaptic GABA-A receptor function and also activate δ-subunit-containing extrasynaptic GABA-A receptors that mediate tonic currents and thus may play an important role in neuronal network excitability and seizure susceptibility. Our studies over the past decade have shown that neurosteroids are broad-spectrum anticonvulsants and confer seizure protection in various animal models. They protect against seizures induced by GABA-A receptor antagonists, 6-Hz model, pilocarpine-induced limbic seizures, and seizures in kindled animals. Unlike benzodiazepines, tolerance does not occur to their actions during chronic administration. Our recent studies provide compelling evidence that neurosteroids may have antiepileptogenic properties. There is emerging evidence that endogenous neurosteroids may play a key role in the pathophysiology of catamenial epilepsy, stress–sensitive seizure conditions, temporal lobe epilepsy, and alcohol-withdrawal seizures. It is suggested that neurosteroid replacement with natural or synthetic neurosteroids may be useful in the treatment of epilepsy. Synthetic analogs of neurosteroids that are devoid of hormonal side effects show promise in the treatment of diverse seizure disorders. Agents that stimulate endogenous production of neurosteroids may also be useful for treatment of epilepsy.
allopregnanolone; THDOC; neurosteroids; seizure; epilepsy; catamenial epilepsy; epileptogenesis; GABA-A receptor
Neurosteroids are endogenous regulators of neuronal excitability and seizure susceptibility. Neurosteroids, such as allopregnanolone (AP; 3α-hydroxy-5α-pregnan-20-one), exhibit enhanced anticonvulsant activity in perimenstrual catamenial epilepsy, a neuroendocrine condition in which seizures are clustered around the menstrual period associated with neurosteroid withdrawal (NSW). However, the molecular mechanisms underlying such enhanced neurosteroid sensitivity remain unclear. Neurosteroids are allosteric modulators of both synaptic (αβγ2-containing) and extrasynaptic (αβδ-containing) GABAA receptors, but they display greater sensitivity toward δ-subunit receptors in dentate gyrus granule cells (DGGCs). Here we report a novel plasticity of extrasynaptic δ-containing GABAA receptors in the dentate gyrus in a mouse perimenstrual-like model of NSW. In molecular and immunofluorescence studies, a significant increase occurred in δ subunits, but not α1, α2, β2, and γ2 subunits, in the dentate gyrus of NSW mice. Electrophysiological studies confirmed enhanced sensitivity to AP potentiation of GABA-gated currents in DGGCs, but not in CA1 pyramidal cells, in NSW animals. AP produced a greater potentiation of tonic currents in DGGCs of NSW animals, and such enhanced AP sensitivity was not evident in δ-subunit knock-out mice subjected to a similar withdrawal paradigm. In behavioral studies, mice undergoing NSW exhibited enhanced seizure susceptibility to hippocampus kindling. AP has enhanced anticonvulsant effects in fully kindled wild-type mice, but not δ-subunit knock-out mice, undergoing NSW-induced seizures, confirming δ-linked neurosteroid sensitivity. These results indicate that perimenstrual NSW is associated with striking upregulation of extrasynaptic, δ-containing GABAA receptors that mediate tonic inhibition and neurosteroid sensitivity in the dentate gyrus. These findings may represent a molecular rationale for neurosteroid therapy of catamenial epilepsy.
allopregnanolone; epilepsy; GABA receptor; neurosteroid; tonic inhibition; withdrawal
Progesterone (P) plays an important role in seizure susceptibility in women with epilepsy. Preclinical and experimental studies suggest that P appears to interrupt epileptogenesis, which is a process whereby a normal brain becomes progressively epileptic due to precipitating risk factors. P has not been investigated widely for its potential disease-modifying activity in epileptogenic models. Recently, P has been shown to exert disease-modifying effects in the kindling model of epileptogenesis. However, the mechanisms underlying the protective effects of P against epileptogenesis remain unclear. In this study, we investigated the role of P-derived neurosteroids in the disease-modifying activity of P. It is hypothesized that 5α-reductase converts P to allopregnanolone and related neurosteroids that retard epileptogenesis in the brain. To test this hypothesis, we utilized the mouse hippocampus kindling model of epileptogenesis and investigated the effect of finasteride, a 5α-reductase and neurosteroid synthesis inhibitor. P markedly retarded the development of epileptogenesis and inhibited the rate of kindling acquisition to elicit stage 5 seizures. Pretreatment with finasteride led to complete inhibition of the P-induced retardation of limbic epileptogenesis in mice. Finasteride did not significantly influence the acute seizure expression in fully-kindled mice expressing stage 5 seizures. Thus, neurosteroids that potentiate phasic and tonic inhibition in the hippocampus, such as allopregnanolone, may mediate the disease-modifying effect of P, indicating a new role of neurosteroids in acquired limbic epileptogenesis and temporal lobe epilepsy.
Progesterone; epileptogenesis; kindling; neurosteroid; finasteride; seizure
This article describes current experimental models of status epilepticus (SE) and neuronal injury for use in the screening of new therapeutic agents. Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder characterized by recurrent unprovoked seizures. SE is an emergency condition associated with continuous seizures lasting more than 30 min. It causes significant mortality and morbidity. SE can cause devastating damage to the brain leading to cognitive impairment and increased risk of epilepsy. Benzodiazepines are the first-line drugs for the treatment of SE, however, many people exhibit partial or complete resistance due to a breakdown of GABA inhibition. Therefore, new drugs with neuroprotective effects against the SE-induced neuronal injury and degeneration are desirable. Animal models are used to study the pathophysiology of SE and for the discovery of newer anticonvulsants. In SE paradigms, seizures are induced in rodents by chemical agents or by electrical stimulation of brain structures. Electrical stimulation includes perforant path and self-sustaining stimulation models. Pharmacological models include kainic acid, pilocarpine, flurothyl, organophosphates and other convulsants that induce SE in rodents. Neuronal injury occurs within the initial SE episode, and animals exhibit cognitive dysfunction and spontaneous seizures several weeks after this precipitating event. Current SE models have potential applications but have some limitations. In general, the experimental SE model should be analogous to the human seizure state and it should share very similar neuropathological mechanisms. The pilocarpine and diisopropylfluorophosphate models are associated with prolonged, diazepam-insensitive seizures and neurodegeneration and therefore represent paradigms of refractory SE. Novel mechanism-based or clinically relevant models are essential to identify new therapies for SE and neuroprotective interventions.
perforant stimulation; pilocarpine; kainic acid; epilepsy; seizure; DFP; neurodegeneration
This review focuses on the neurobiology of integrins, pathophysiological roles of integrins in neuroplasticity and nervous system disorders, and therapeutic implications of integrins as potential drug targets and possible delivery pathways. Neuroplasticity is a central phenomenon in many neurological conditions such as seizures, trauma, and traumatic brain injury. During the course of many brain diseases, in addition to intracellular compartment changes, alterations in non-cell compartments such as extracellular matrix (ECM) are recognized as an essential process in forming and reorganizing neural connections. Integrins are heterodimeric transmembrane receptors that mediate cell–ECM and cell–cell adhesion events. Although the mechanisms of neuroplasticity remain unclear, it has been suggested that integrins undergo plasticity including clustering through interactions with ECM proteins, modulating ion channels, intracellular Ca2+ and protein kinases signaling, and reorganization of cytoskeletal filaments. As cell surface receptors, integrins are central to the pathophysiology of many brain diseases, such as epilepsy, and are potential targets for the development of new drugs for neurological disorders.
Extracellular matrix protein; integrin; neuroplasticity; nervous diseases; drug development
This article describes the emerging evidence of hormonal influence on epileptogenesis, which is a process whereby a brain becomes progressively epileptic due to an initial precipitating event of diverse origin such as brain injury, stroke, infection, or prolonged seizures. The molecular mechanisms underlying the development of epilepsy are poorly understood. Neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration appear to trigger epileptogenesis. There is an intense search for drugs that truly prevent the development of epilepsy in people at risk. Hormones play an important role in children and adults with epilepsy. Corticosteroids, progesterone, estrogens, and neurosteroids have been shown to affect seizure activity in animal models and in clinical studies. However, the impact of hormones on epileptogenesis has not been investigated widely. There is emerging new evidence that progesterone, neurosteroids, and endogenous hormones may play a role in regulating the epileptogenesis. Corticosterone has excitatory effects and triggers epileptogenesis in animal models. Progesterone has disease-modifying activity in epileptogenic models. The antiepileptogenic effect of progesterone has been attributed to its conversion to neurosteroids, which binds to GABA-A receptors and enhances phasic and tonic inhibition in the brain. Neurosteroids are robust anticonvulsants. There is pilot evidence that neurosteroids may have antiepileptogenic properties. Future studies may generate new insight on the disease-modifying potential of hormonal agents and neurosteroids in epileptogenesis.
epilepsy; epileptogenesis; neurosteroid; estrogen; progesterone; kindling
Progesterone (P) is an endogenous anticonvulsant hormone. P is being evaluated as a treatment for epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, and other complex neurological conditions. Preclinical and clinical studies suggest that P appears to interrupt epileptogenic events. However, the potential disease-modifying effect of P in epileptogenic models is not widely investigated. In this study, we examined the effects of P on the development of hippocampus kindling in female mice. In addition, we determined the role of progesterone receptors (PR) in the P’s effect on the kindling epileptogenesis utilizing PR knockout (PRKO) mice. P, at 25 mg/kg, did not affect seizures and did not exert sedative/motor effects in fully-kindled mice. P treatment (25 mg/kg, twice daily for 2 weeks) significantly suppressed the rate of development of behavioral kindled seizure activity evoked by daily hippocampus stimulation in wild-type (WT) mice, indicating a disease-modifying effect of P on limbic epileptogenesis. There was a significant increase in the rate of ‘rebound or withdrawal’ kindling during drug-free stimulation sessions following abrupt discontinuation of P treatment. A washout period after termination of P treatment prevented such acceleration in kindling. PRKO mice were kindled significantly slower than WT mice, indicating a modulatory role of PRs in seizure susceptibility. P’s effects on early kindling progression was partially decreased in PRKO mice, but the overall (~2-fold) delay in the rate of kindling for the induction of stage 5 seizures was unchanged in PRKO mice. Moreover, the acute anticonvulsant effect of P was undiminished in fully-kindled PRKO mice. These studies suggest that P exerts disease-modifying effects in the hippocampus kindling model at doses that do not significantly affect seizure expression and motor performance, and the kindling-retarding effects of P may occur partly through a complex PR-dependent and PR-independent mechanism.
Progesterone; epileptogenesis; kindling; disease-modifying; neurosteroid; progesterone receptor; seizure
Neurosteroids regulate GABA-A receptor plasticity. Neurosteroid withdrawal occurs during menstruation and is associated with a marked increase in expression of GABA-A receptor α4-subunit, a key subunit linked to enhanced neuronal excitability, seizure susceptibility and benzodiazepine resistance. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the upregulation of α4-subunit expression remain unclear. Here we utilized the progesterone receptor (PR) knockout mouse to investigate molecular pathways of PR and the transcription factor early growth response factor-3 (Egr3) in regulation of the GABA-A receptor α4-subunit expression in the hippocampus in a mouse neurosteroid withdrawal paradigm. Neurosteroid withdrawal induced a threefold increase in α4-subunit expression in wild-type mice, but this upregulation was unchanged in PR knockout mice. The expression of Egr3, which controls α4-subunit transcription, was increased significantly following neurosteroid withdrawal in wild-type and PR knockout mice. Neurosteroid withdrawal-induced α4-subunit upregulation was completely suppressed by antisense Egr3 inhibition. In the hippocampus kindling model of epilepsy, there was heightened seizure activity, significant reduction in the antiseizure sensitivity of diazepam (a benzodiazepine insensitive at α4βγ-receptors) and conferral of increased seizure protection of flumazenil (a low-affinity agonist at α4βγ-receptors) in neurosteroid-withdrawn wild-type and PR knockout mice. These observations are consistent with enhanced α4-containing receptor abundance in vivo. Neurosteroid withdrawal-induced seizure exacerbation, diazepam insensitivity, and flumazenil efficacy in the kindling model were reversed by inhibition of Egr3. These results indicate that neurosteroid withdrawal-induced upregulation of GABA-A receptor α4-subunit expression is mediated by the Egr3 via a PR-independent signaling pathway. These findings help advance our understanding of the molecular basis of catamenial epilepsy, a neuroendocrine condition that occurs around the perimenstrual period and is characterized by neurosteroid withdrawal-linked seizure exacerbations in women with epilepsy.
Allopregnanolone; diazepam; Egr3; GABA-A receptor; kindling; neurosteroid withdrawal; progesterone; progesterone receptor; α4-subunit; seizure
This chapter provides an overview of neurosteroids, especially their impact on the brain, sex differences and therapeutic potentials. Neurosteroids are synthesized within the brain and rapidly modulate neuronal excitability. They are classified as pregnane neurosteroids such as allopregnanolone and allotetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone, and androstane neurosteroids, such as androstanediol and etiocholanone. Neurosteroids such as allopregnanolone are positive allosteric modulators of GABA-A receptors with powerful antiseizure activity in diverse animal models. Neurosteroids increases both synaptic and tonic inhibition. They are endogenous regulators of seizure susceptibility, anxiety and stress. Sulfated neurosteroids such as pregnenolone sulfate, which are negative GABA-Areceptor modulators, are memory-enhancing agents. Sex differences in susceptibility to brain disorders could be due to neurosteroids and sexual dimorphism in specific structures of the human brain. Synthetic neurosteroids that exhibit better bioavailability and efficacy and drugs that enhance neurosteroid synthesis have therapeutic potential in anxiety, epilepsy and other brain disorders. Clinical trials with the synthetic neurosteroid analog ganaxolone in the treatment of epilepsy have been encouraging. Neurosteroidogenic agents that lack benzodiazepine-like side effects show promise in the treatment of anxiety and depression.
Allopregnanolone; androstanediol; deoxycorticosterone; epilepsy; ganaxolone; GABA-A receptor; sex differences; neurosteroid; progesterone; seizure susceptibility; testosterone
Contraceptive management in women with epilepsy is critical owing to the potential maternal and fetal risks if contraception or seizure management fails. This article briefly describes the pharmacokinetic interactions between antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) and hormonal contraceptives and the rational strategies that may overcome these risks. Hormonal contraception, including the use of oral contraceptives (OCs), is widely used in many women with epilepsy – there is no strong evidence of seizures worsening with their use. AEDs are the mainstay for seizure control in women with epilepsy. However, there are many factors to consider in the choice of AED therapy and hormonal contraception, since some AEDs can reduce the efficacy of OCs owing to pharmacokinetic interactions. Estrogens and progestogens are metabolized by cytochrome P450 3A4. AEDs, such as phenytoin, phenobarbital, carbamazepine, felbamate, topiramate, oxcarbazepine and primidone, induce cytochrome P450 3A4, leading to enhanced metabolism of either or both the estrogenic and progestogenic component of OCs, thereby reducing their efficacy in preventing pregnancy. OCs can also decrease the concentrations of AEDs such as lamotrigine and, thereby, increase the risk of seizures. Increased awareness of AED interactions may help optimize seizure therapy in women with epilepsy.
epilepsy; estrogen; oral contraceptive; pregnancy; progesterone
The GABA-A receptor plays a critical role in inhibitory neurotransmission in the brain. Quantitation of GABA-A receptor subunits in various brain regions is essential to understand their role in plasticity and brain disorders. However, conventional RNA assays are tedious and less sensitive for use in studies of subunit plasticity. Here we describe optimization of a sensitive assay of GABA-A receptor subunit gene expression by TaqMan real-time PCR. For each subunit gene, a set of primers and TaqMan fluorogenic probe were designed to specifically amplify the target template. The TaqMan methodology was optimized for quantification of mouse GABA-A receptor subunits (α1–6, β1–3, γ2, and δ) and GAPDH. The TaqMan reaction detected very low levels of gene expression (~100 template copies of cDNA). A standard curve for GAPDH and one of the target genes, constructed using the cDNA, revealed slopes around −3.4 (r2=0.990), reflecting similar optimum PCR efficiencies. The methodology was utilized for quantification of the GABA-A receptor α4 subunit, which is known to upregulate following withdrawal from chronic progesterone or neurosteroids. Our results show that the α4-subunit expression increased threefold in the hippocampus following neurosteroid withdrawal in mice. The TaqMan PCR assay allows sensitive, high-throughput transcriptional profiling of complete GABA-A receptor subunit family, and thus provides specific tool for studies of GABA-A receptor subunit plasticity in neurological and psychiatric animal models.
Real-time PCR; TaqMan; GABAA receptor; Neurosteroid withdrawal; GAPDH
Catamenial epilepsy is a multifaceted neuroendocrine condition in which seizures are clustered around specific points in the menstrual cycle, most often around perimenstrual or periovulatory period. Generally, a two-fold or greater increase in seizure frequency during a particular phase of the menstrual cycle could be considered as catamenial epilepsy. Based on this criteria, recent clinical studies indicate that catamenial epilepsy affects 31 – 60% of the women with epilepsy. Three types of catamenial seizures (perimenstrual, periovulatory and inadequate luteal) have been identified. However, there is no specific drug available today for catamenial epilepsy, which has not been successfully treated with conventional antiepileptic drugs. Elucidation of the pathophysiology of catamenial epilepsy is a prerequisite to develop specific targeted approaches for treatment or prevention of the disorder. Cyclical changes in the circulating levels of estrogens and progesterone play a central role in the development of catamenial epilepsy. There is emerging evidence that endogenous neurosteroids with anticonvulsant or proconvulsant effects could play a critical role in catamenial epilepsy. It is thought that perimenstrual catamenial epilepsy is associated with the withdrawal of anticonvulsant neurosteroids. Progesterone and other hormonal agents have been shown in limited trials to be moderately effective in catamenial epilepsy, but may cause endocrine side effects. Synthetic neurosteroids, which enhance the tonic GABA-A receptor function, might provide an effective approach for the catamenial epilepsy therapy without producing hormonal side effects.
Epilepsy; neurosteroid; allopregnanolone; THDOC; androstanediol; GABA-A receptor; progesterone withdrawal; menstrual cycle; ganaxolone; catamenial seizures; ovarian hormones