Functional changes in somatostatin and neuropeptide Y containing neurons in the rat hippocampus in chronic models of limbic seizures

A. Vezzani, C. Schwarzer, E. W. Lothman, J. Williamson, G. Sperk

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Using immunocytochemistry and in situ hybridization analysis of mRNA, we investigated the changes in the expression of somatostatin and neuropeptide Y (NPY) in the rat hippocampal principal neurons in kindling or after electrically induced status epilepticus (SE), two models of limbic epilepsy associated with different chronic sequelae of seizures and seizure-related neuropathology. At the preconvulsive stage 2 of kindling and after three consecutive tonic-clonic seizures (stage 5) but not after a single after-discharge (AD), somatostatin and NPY immunoreactivity (IR) were markedly increased in interneurons of the deep hilus and the polymorphic cell layer and their presumed projections to the outer molecular layer of the dentate gyrus. Increased mRNA levels were observed in the same neurons. NPY IR and mRNA were highly expressed in pyramidal-shaped basket cells at both stages of kindling. IR was similar two days after stages 2 or 5 of kindling while less pronounced effects were observed one week after kindling completion. Peptide-containing neurons in the hilus appeared well preserved in spite of an average 24% reduction of Nissl stained cells (p <0.01) in the stimulated and contralateral hippocampus at stage 5. No sprouting of mossy fibres in the inner molecular layer was found as assessed by Timm staining. Thirty days after SE, somatostatin IR was slightly reduced or similar to controls in the ventral dentate gyrus and molecular layer in four out of six rats (SE-I group) while in the two other post-SE rats (SE-II), somatostatin IR was lost. These changes were associated with a different extent of neurodegeneration as assessed by cell counting of Nissl stained sections. In the granule cells/mossy fibres NPY-IR was transiently expressed at stage 2 and after a single AD. Differently, NPY-IR was persistently enhanced in the mossy fibres of all post-SE rats particularly in the SE-II group. In these rats, NPY immunoreactive fibres were detected in the infrapyramidal region of the stratum oriens CA3 and in the inner molecular layer of the dentate gyrus very likely labeling sprouted mossy fibres. In the hippocampus proper of kindled rats, somatostatin and NPY IR were respectively enhanced in the stratum lacunosum moleculare, the subiculum and in the alveus while no significant changes were observed after SE. Changes in peptide expression were bilateral and involved both the dorsal and the ventral hippocampus. The lasting modifications in peptides IR and mRNA expression in distinct neuronal populations of the hippocampus may reflect functional modifications in the respective neurons and play a role in limbic epileptogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-279
Number of pages13
JournalEpilepsy Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1996


  • hippocampus
  • kindling
  • limbic system
  • mossy fibres
  • neurodegeneration
  • neuronal plasticity
  • seizures
  • sprouting
  • status epilepticus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Neurology


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