OBJECTIVE: Because brain inflammation may contribute to the pathophysiology of temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), we investigated the expression of various inflammatory markers of the innate and adaptive immune system in the epileptogenic human and rat hippocampus in relation to seizure activity and blood-brain barrier (BBB) dysfunction.
METHODS: Immunohistochemistry was performed using various immune cell markers (for microglia, monocytes, macrophages, T lymphocytes, and dendritic cells) on hippocampal sections of drug-resistant TLE patients and patients who died after status epilepticus. The expression of these markers was also studied in the electrical post-status epilepticus rat model for TLE, during the acute, latent, and chronic epileptic phase. BBB dysfunction was assessed using albumin immunohistochemistry and the BBB tracer fluorescein.
RESULTS: Monocyte infiltration, microglia, and perivascular macrophage activation were persistently increased in both epileptogenic human and rat hippocampus, whereas T lymphocytes and dendritic cells were not or were scarcely detected. In addition to this, increased expression of C-C motif ligand 2 (CCL2) and osteopontin was observed. In humans, the expression of CD68 and CCL2 was related to the duration of epilepsy and type of pathology. In rats, the expression of CD68, CCL2, and the perivascular macrophage marker CD163 was related to the duration of the initial insult and to the number of spontaneous seizures. Interestingly, the number of CD163-positive perivascular macrophages was also positively correlated to BBB dysfunction in chronic epileptic rats.
SIGNIFICANCE: These data suggest a pro-epileptogenic role for monocytes/macrophages and other cells of the innate immune response, possibly via increased blood brain barrier leakage, and indicate that T cells and dendritic cells, which are closely associated with the adaptive immune response, are only sparsely infiltrated during epileptogenesis in the electrical post-status epilepticus rat model. Future studies should reveal the relative importance of these immune cells and whether specific manipulation can modify or prevent epileptogenesis.