Antiepileptogenic and Neuroprotective effect of Mefloquine after Experimental Status Epilepticus
Acquired temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) characterized by spontaneous recurrent seizures (SRS) and hippocampal inhibitory neuron dysfunction is often refractory to current therapies. Gap junctional or electrical coupling between inhibitory neurons has been proposed to facilitate network synchrony and intercellular molecular exchange suggesting a role in both seizures and neurodegeneration. While gap junction blockers can limit acute seizures, whether blocking neuronal gap junctions can modify development of chronic epilepsy has not been examined. This study examined whether mefloquine, a selective blocker of Connexin 36 gap junctions which are well characterized in inhibitory neurons, can limit epileptogenesis and related cellular and behavioral pathology in a model of acquired TLE. A single, systemic dose of mefloquine administered early after pilocarpine-induced status epilepticus (SE) in rat reduced both development of SRS and behavioral co-morbidities. Immunostaining for interneuron subtypes identified that mefloquine treatment likely reduced delayed inhibitory neuronal loss after SE. Uniquely, parvalbumin expressing neurons in the hippocampal dentate gyrus appeared relatively resistant to early cell loss after SE. Functionally, whole cell patch clamp recordings revealed that mefloquine treatment preserved inhibitory synaptic drive to projection neurons one week and one month after SE. These results demonstrate that mefloquine, a drug already approved for malaria prophylaxis, is potentially antiepileptogenic and can protect against progressive interneuron loss and behavioral co-morbidities of epilepsy.