Elevated Basal Glutamate and Unchanged Glutamine and GABA in Refractory Epilepsy: Microdialysis Study of 79 Patients at the Yale Epilepsy Surgery Program

    loading  Checking for direct PDF access through Ovid



Aberrant glutamate and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmission contribute to seizure generation and the epileptic state. However, whether levels of these neurochemicals are abnormal in epileptic patients is unknown. Here, we report on interictal levels of glutamate, glutamine, and GABA in epilepsy patients at seizure onset and nonepileptic sites, cortical lesions, and from patients with poorly localized neocortical epilepsies.


Subjects (n = 79) were medically refractory epilepsy patients undergoing intracranial electroencephalogram evaluation. Microdialysis probes (n = 125) coupled to depth electrodes were implanted within suspected seizure onset sites and microdialysis samples were obtained during interictal periods. Glutamate, glutamine, and GABA were measured using high-performance liquid chromatography. Probe locations were subsequently classified by consensus of expert epileptologists.


Glutamate levels were elevated in epileptogenic (p = 0.03; n = 7), nonlocalized (p < 0.001), and lesional cortical sites (p < 0.001) when compared to nonepileptogenic cortex. Glutamate was also elevated in epileptogenic (p < 0.001) compared to nonepileptogenic hippocampus. There were no statistical differences in GABA or glutamine, although GABA levels showed high variability across patients and groups.


Our findings indicate that chronically elevated extracellular glutamate is a common pathological feature among epilepsies with different etiology. Contrary to our predictions, GABA and glutamine levels were not decreased in any of the measured areas. Whereas variability in GABA levels may in part be attributed to the use of GABAergic antiepileptic drugs, the stability in glutamine across patient groups indicate that extracellular glutamine levels are under tighter metabolic regulation than previously thought. Ann Neurol 2016;80:35–45

Related Topics

    loading  Loading Related Articles