A single subconvulsant dose of domoic acid at mid-gestation does not cause temporal lobe epilepsy in mice

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Abstract

Harmful blooms of domoic acid (DA)-producing algae are a problem in oceans worldwide. DA is a potent glutamate receptor agonist that can cause status epilepticus and in survivors, temporal lobe epilepsy. In mice, one-time low-dose in utero exposure to DA was reported to cause hippocampal damage and epileptiform activity, leading to the hypothesis that unrecognized exposure to DA from contaminated seafood in pregnant women can damage the fetal hippocampus and initiate temporal lobe epileptogenesis. However, development of epilepsy (i.e., spontaneous recurrent seizures) has not been tested. In the present study, long-term seizure monitoring and histology was used to test for temporal lobe epilepsy following prenatal exposure to DA. In Experiment One, the previous study's in utero DA treatment protocol was replicated, including use of the CD-1 mouse strain. Afterward, mice were video-monitored for convulsive seizures from 2 to 6 months old. None of the CD-1 mice treated in utero with vehicle or DA was observed to experience spontaneous convulsive seizures. After seizure monitoring, mice were evaluated for pathological evidence of temporal lobe epilepsy. None of the mice treated in utero with DA displayed the hilar neuron loss that occurs in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy and in the mouse pilocarpine model of temporal lobe epilepsy. In Experiment Two, a higher dose of DA was administered to pregnant FVB mice. FVB mice were tested as a potentially more sensitive strain, because they have a lower seizure threshold, and some females spontaneously develop epilepsy. Female offspring were monitored with continuous video and telemetric bilateral hippocampal local field potential recording at 1–11 months old. A similar proportion of vehicle- and DA-treated female FVB mice spontaneously developed epilepsy, beginning in the fourth month of life. Average seizure frequency and duration were similar in both groups. Seizure frequency was lower than that of positive-control pilocarpine-treated mice, but seizure duration was similar. None of the mice treated in utero with vehicle or DA displayed hilar neuron loss or intense mossy fiber sprouting, a form of aberrant synaptic reorganization that develops in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy and in pilocarpine-treated mice. FVB mice that developed epilepsy (vehicle- and DA-treated) displayed mild mossy fiber sprouting. Results of this study suggest that a single subconvulsive dose of DA at mid-gestation does not cause temporal lobe epilepsy in mice.

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