Kainate seizures cause acute dendritic injury and actin depolymerization in vivo

Ling Hui Zeng, Lin Xu, Nicholas R. Rensing, Philip M. Sinatra, Steven M. Rothman, Michael Wong

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129 Scopus citations


Seizures may cause brain injury via a variety of mechanisms, potentially contributing to cognitive deficits in epilepsy patients. Although seizures induce neuronal death in some situations, they may also have "nonlethal" pathophysiological effects on neuronal structure and function, such as modifying dendritic morphology. Previous studies involving conventional fixed tissue analysis have demonstrated a chronic loss of dendritic spines after seizures in animal models and human tissue. More recently, in vivo time-lapse imaging methods have been used to monitor acute changes in spines directly during seizures, but documented spine loss only under severe conditions. Here, we examined effects of secondary generalized seizures induced by kainate, on dendritic structure of neocortical neurons using multiphoton imaging in live mice in vivo and investigated molecular mechanisms mediating these structural changes. Higher-stage kainate-induced seizures caused dramatic dendritic beading and loss of spines within minutes, in the absence of neuronal death or changes in systemic oxygenation. Although the dendritic beading improved rapidly after the seizures, the spine loss recovered only partially over a 24 h period. Kainate seizures also resulted in activation of the actin-depolymerizing factor, cofilin, and a corresponding decrease in filamentous actin, indicating that depolymerization of actin may mediate the morphological dendritic changes. Finally, an inhibitor of the calcium-dependent phosphatase, calcineurin, antagonized the effects of seizures on cofilin activation and spine morphology. These dramatic in vivo findings demonstrate that seizures produce acute dendritic injury in neocortical neurons via calcineurin dependent regulation of the actin cytoskeleton, suggesting novel therapeutic targets for preventing seizure-induced brain injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11604-11613
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number43
StatePublished - Oct 24 2007


  • Calcineurin
  • Cofilin
  • Dendrite
  • Epilepsy
  • Kainic acid
  • Seizure


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