Increasing adult neurogenesis protects mice from epilepsy

  1. Center for Dementia Research The Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research Orangeburg, NY 10962
  2. Department of Psychology The University of Maine Orono, ME 04469
  3. Department of Anatomy, Physiology, & Pharmacology College of Medicine University of Saskatchewan Saskatoon, SK S7N 5E5
  4. Departments of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry New York University Grossman School of Medicine New York, NY 10016
  5. Departments of Neuroscience & Physiology, Psychiatry, and the New York University Neuroscience Institute New York University Grossman School of Medicine New York, NY 10016

Editors

  • Reviewing Editor
    Inna Slutsky
    Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Senior Editor
    John Huguenard
    Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, United States of America

Reviewer #1 (Public Review):

Summary:
As adult-born granule neurons have been shown to play diverse roles, both positive and negative, to modulate hippocampal circuitry and function in epilepsy, understanding the mechanisms by which altered neurogenesis contributes to seizures is important for future therapeutic strategies. The work by Jain et al. demonstrates that increasing adult neurogenesis before status epilepticus (SE) leads to a suppression of chronic seizures in the pilocarpine model of temporal lobe epilepsy. This work is potentially interesting because previous studies showed suppressing neurogenesis led to reduced chronic seizures.

To increase neurogenesis, the authors conditionally delete the pro-apoptotic gene Bax using a tamoxifen-inducible Nestin-CreERT2 which has been previously published to increase proliferation and survival of adult-born neurons by Sahay et al. After 6 weeks of tamoxifen injection, the authors subjected male and female mice to pilocarpine-induced SE. In the first study, at 2 hours after pilocarpine, the authors examine latency to the first seizure, severity and total number of acute seizures, and power during SE. In the second study in a separate group of mice, at 3 weeks after pilocarpine, the authors examine chronic seizure number and frequency, seizure duration, postictal depression, and seizure distribution/cluster seizures. Overall, the study concludes that increasing adult neurogenesis in the normal adult brain can reduce epilepsy in females specifically. However, important BrdU birthdating experiments in both male and female mice need to be included to support the conclusions made by the authors. Furthermore, speculative mechanisms lacking direct evidence reduce enthusiasm for the findings.

Strengths:
1. The study is sex-matched and reveals differences in response to increasing adult neurogenesis in chronic seizures between males and females.

2. The EEG recording parameters are stringent, and the analysis of chronic seizures is comprehensive. In two separate experiments, the electrodes were implanted to record EEG from the cortex as well as the hippocampus. The recording was done for 10 hours post pilocarpine to analyze acute seizures, and for 3 weeks continuous video EEG recording was done to analyze chronic seizures.

Weaknesses:
1. Cells generated during acute seizures have different properties to cells generated in chronic seizures. In this study, the authors employ two bouts of neurogenesis stimuli (Bax deletion dependent and SE dependent), with two phases of epilepsy (acute and chronic). There are multiple confounding variables to effectively conclude that conditionally deleting Bax in Nestin-Cre+ cells leads to increased neurogenesis and hilar ectopic granule cells, thereby reducing chronic seizures.

2. Related to this is the degree of neurogenesis between Cre+ and Cre- mice and the nature of the sex differences. It is crucial to know the rate/fold change of increased neurogenesis before pilocarpine treatment and whether it is different between male and female mice.

3. The authors observe more hilar Prox1 cells in Cre+ mice compared to Cre- mice. The authors should confirm the source of the hilar Prox1+ cells.

4. The biggest weakness is the lack of mechanism. The authors postulate a hypothetical mechanism to reconcile how increasing and decreasing adult-born neurons in GCL and hilus and loss of hilar mossy and SOM cells would lead to opposite effects - more or fewer seizures. The authors suggest the reason could be due to rewiring or no rewiring of hilar ectopic GCs, respectively, but do not provide clear-cut evidence.

Reviewer #2 (Public Review):

Summary:
In this manuscript, Jain et al explore whether increasing adult neurogenesis is protective against status epilepticus (SE) and the development of spontaneous recurrent seizures (chronic epilepsy) in a mouse pilocarpine model of TLE. The authors increase adult neurogenesis via conditional deletion of Bax, a pro-apoptotic gene, in Nestin-CreERT2Baxfl/fl mice. Cre- littermates are used as controls for comparisons. In addition to characterizing seizure phenotypes, the authors also compare the abundance of hilar ectopic granule cells, mossy cells, hilar SOM interneurons, and the degree of neuronal damage between mice with increased neurogenesis (Cre+) vs Cre- controls. The authors find less severe SE and a reduction in chronic seizures in female mice with pre-insult increased adult-born neurons. Immunolabeling experiments show these females also have preservation of hilar mossy cells and somatostatin interneurons, suggesting the pre-insult increase in adult neurogenesis is protective.

Strengths:
1. The finding that female mice with increased neurogenesis at the time of pilocarpine exposure have fewer seizures despite having increased hilar ectopic granule cells is very interesting.
2. The work builds nicely on the group's prior studies.
3. Apparent sex differences are a potentially important finding.
4, The immunohistochemistry data are compelling.
5. Good controls for EEG electrode implantation effects.
6. Nice analysis of most of the SE EEG data.

Weaknesses:
1. In addition to the Cre- littermate controls, a no Tamoxifen treatment group is necessary to control for both insertional effects and leaky expression of the Nestin-CreERT2 transgene.

2. The authors suggest sex differences; however, experimental procedures differed between male and female mice (as the authors note). Female mice received diazepam 40 minutes after the first pilocarpine-induced seizure onset, whereas male mice did not receive diazepam until 2 hours post-onset. The former would likely lessen the effects of SE on the female mice. Therefore, sex differences cannot be accurately assessed by comparing these two groups, and instead, should be compared between mice with matching diazepam time courses. Additionally, the authors state that female mice that received diazepam 2 hours post-onset had severe brain damage. This is concerning as it would suggest that SE is more severe in the female than in the male mice.

3. Some sample sizes are low, particularly when sex and genotypes are split (n=3-5), which could cause a type II statistical error.

4. Several figures show a datapoint in the sex and genotype-separated graphs that is missing from the corresponding male and female pooled graphs (Figs. 2C, 2D, 4B).

5. In Suppl Figs. 1B & 1C, subsections 1c and 2c, the EEG trace recording is described as the end of SE; however, SE appears to still be ongoing in these traces in the form of periodic discharges in the EEG.

6. In Results section II.D and associated Fig.3, what the authors refer to as "postictal EEG depression" is more appropriately termed "postictal EEG suppression". Also, postictal EEG suppression has established criteria to define it that should be used. The example traces in Fig. 3A and B should also be expanded to better show this potential phenomenon.

7. In Fig.5D, the area fraction of DCX in Cre+ female mice is comparable to that of Cre- and Cre+ male mice. Is it possible that there is a ceiling effect in DCX expression that may explain why male Cre+ mice do not have a significant increase compared to male Cre- mice?

8. In Suppl. Fig 6, the authors should include DCX immunolabeling quantification from conditional Cre+ male mice used in this study, rather than showing data from a previous publication.

9. In Fig 8, please also include Fluorojade-C staining and quantification for male mice.

10. Page 13: Please specify in the first paragraph of the discussion that findings were specific to female mice with pre-insult increases in adult-born neurogenesis.

Minor:
11. In Fig. 1 and suppl. figure 1, please clarify whether traces are from male or female mice.

12. Please be consistent with indicating whether immunolabeling images are from female or male mice.

a. Fig 5B images labeled as from "Cre- Females" and "Cre+ Females".

b. Suppl. Fig 8: Images labeled as "Cre- F" and "Cre+ F".

c. Fig 6: sex not specified.

d. Fig. 7: sex only specified in the figure legend.

e. Fig 8: only female mice were included in these experiments, but this is not clear from the figure title or legend.

13. Page 4: the last paragraph of the introduction belongs within the discussion section.

14. Page 6: The sentence "The data are consistent with prior studies..." is unnecessary.

15. Suppl. Fig 6A: Please include representative images of normal condition DCX immunolabeling.

16. In Suppl. Fig 7C, I believe the authors mean "no loss of hilar mossy and SOM cells" instead of "loss of hilar mossy and SOM cells".

  1. Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  2. Wellcome Trust
  3. Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
  4. Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation