Investigations into the cellular and molecular changes in the amygdala in models of temporal lobe epilepsy and maternal immune activation

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O'Loughlin, Elaine K.
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University College Cork
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The amygdala is a limbic structure that is involved in many of our emotions and processing of these emotions such as fear, anger and pleasure. Conditions such as anxiety, autism, and also epilepsy, have been linked to abnormal functioning of the amygdala, owing to improper neurodevelopment or damage. This thesis investigated the cellular and molecular changes in the amygdala in models of temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) and maternal immune activation (MIA). The kainic acid (KA) model of temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) was used to induce Ammon’s-horn sclerosis (AHS) and to investigate behavioural and cytoarchitectural changes that occur in the amygdala related to Neuropeptide Y1 receptor expression. Results showed that KA-injected animals showed increased anxiety-like behaviours and displayed histopathological hallmarks of AHS including CA1 ablation, granule cell dispersion, volume reduction and astrogliosis. Amygdalar volume and neuronal loss was observed in the ipsilateral nuclei which was accompanied by astrogliosis. In addition, a decrease in Y1 receptor expressing cells in the ipsilateral CA1 and CA3 sectors of the hippocampus, ipsi- and contralateral granule cell layer of the dentate gyrus and ipsilateral central nucleus of the amygdala was found, consistent with a reduction in Y1 receptor protein levels. The results suggest that plastic changes in hippocampal and/or amygdalar Y1 receptor expression may negatively impact anxiety levels. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain and tight regulation and appropriate control of GABA is vital for neurochemical homeostasis. GABA transporter-1 (GAT-1) is abundantly expressed by neurones and astrocytes and plays a key role in GABA reuptake and regulation. Imbalance in GABA homeostasis has been implicated in epilepsy with GAT-1 being an attractive pharmacological target. Electron microscopy was used to examine the distribution, expression and morphology of GAT-1 expressing structures in the amygdala of the TLE model. Results suggest that GAT-1 was preferentially expressed on putative axon terminals over astrocytic processes in this TLE model. Myelin integrity was examined and results suggested that in the TLE model myelinated fibres were damaged in comparison to controls. Synaptic morphology was studied and results suggested that asymmetric (excitatory) synapses occurred more frequently than symmetric (inhibitory) synapses in the TLE model in comparison to controls. This study illustrated that the amygdala undergoes ultrastructural alterations in this TLE model. Maternal immune activation (MIA) is a risk factor for neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and also epilepsy. MIA was induced at a critical window of amygdalar development at E12 using bacterial mimetic lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Results showed that MIA activates cytokine, toll-like receptor and chemokine expression in the fetal brain that is prolonged in the postnatal amygdala. Inflammation elicited by MIA may prime the fetal brain for alterations seen in the glial environment and this in turn have deleterious effects on neuronal populations as seen in the amygdala at P14. These findings may suggest that MIA induced during amygdalar development may predispose offspring to amygdalar related disorders such as heightened anxiety, fear impairment and also neurodevelopmental disorders.
Amygdala , Epilepsy , Neurodevelopment , Glia , Neuroinflammation
O'Loughlin, E. K. 2015. Investigations into the cellular and molecular changes in the amygdala in models of temporal lobe epilepsy and maternal immune activation. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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