Metyrapone prevents brain damage induced by status epilepticus in the rat lithium-pilocarpine model

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The status epilepticus (SE) induced by lithium-pilocarpine is a well characterized rodent model of the human temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) which is accompanied by severe brain damage. Stress and glucocorticoids markedly contribute to exacerbate neuronal damage induced by seizures but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Herein we sought to investigate whether a single administration of metyrapone (150 mg/kg, i.p.), an 11β-hydroxylase inhibitor, enzyme involved in the peripheral and central synthesis of corticosteroids, had neuroprotective properties in this model. Two experiments were carried out. In exp. 1, metyrapone was administered 3 h before pilocarpine injection whereas in exp. 2, metyrapone administration took place at the onset of the SE. In both experiments, 3 days after the insult, brain metabolism was assessed by in vivo 2-deoxy-2-[18F]fluoro-D-glucose ([18F]FDG) positron emission tomography (PET). Brains were processed for analyses of markers of hippocampal integrity (Nissl staining), neurodegeneration (Fluoro-Jade C), astrogliosis (glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) immunohistochemistry) and, for a marker of activated microglia by in vitro autoradiography with the TSPO (18 kDa translocator protein) radioligand [18F]GE180. The SE resulted in a consistent hypometabolism in hippocampus, cortex and striatum and neuronal damage, hippocampal neurodegeneration, neuronal death and gliosis. Interestingly, metyrapone had neuroprotective effects when administered before, but not after the insult. In summary, we conclude that metyrapone administration prior but not after the SE protected from brain damage induced by SE in the lithium-pilocarpine model. Therefore, it seems that the effect of metyrapone is preventive in nature and likely related to its antiseizure properties.

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