Transplacentally induced neuronal migration disorders: An animal model for the study of the epilepsies

Isabelle M. Germano, Ellen F. Sperber

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Recent clinical and laboratory data suggest that there is a link between neuronal migration disorders (NMD) and increased seizure threshold. To characterize an animal model with features similar to human NMD and to assess seizure susceptibility, NMD were induced in the rat at the time of neuroblastic division (PG15) and three other gestational ages (PG 13, PG14, PG16) by transplacental exposure to methylaxozy-methanol (MAM, 25 mg/kg). Offspring pups were monitored for spontaneous and electrographic seizures. At postnatal day 14, randomly selected rat pups were sacrificed for histological examination. In other MAM-exposed pups and controls, status epilepticus was induced by intraperitoneal administration of kainic acid. On histology, NMD were found in all PG 15 MAM-exposed rats, in comparison to 63% of PG 13, 70% of PG 14, 80% of PG16. Histological features included cortical laminar disorganization, ectopic neurons in the subcortical white matter and in cortical layer I, persistent granular layer, marginal glioneuronal heterotopia, and discrete areas of neuronal ectopia in the CA1 subfield of the hippocampus. Based on the severity of the neuronal migration abnormalities, rats were divided into three categories: severe, moderate, and mild. Severe and moderate NMD were only found in the PG 15 MAM-exposed rats. EEG recording in rats with NMD did not disclose spontaneous seizures; however, rats with severe NMD had higher slow wave activity compared to controls (P < .05). MAM-exposed rats with severe NMD were more susceptible to kainic-induced seizures compared to controls (P < .05). In rats with severe NMD, kainic acid-induced status epilepticus produced hippocampal damage in the CA3/4 region. These results demonstrate that MAM-induced NMD have histological and electrographic characteristics similar to human NMD. The severity of neuronal abnormality depends on the time of transplacental exposure as the most severe NMD were found after exposure to MAM at the time of neuroblastic division. The degree of NMD positively correlates with seizure susceptibility, since only rats with severe NMD have decreased seizure threshold. The occurrence of status epilepticus-induced hippocampal damage in pups with severe NMD suggests that the severely compromised hippocampus is less resistant to seizure-induced injury than the normal developing brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-488
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 15 Feb 1998


  • Epilepsy
  • Hippocampal damage
  • Methylazoxymethanol
  • Neuronal migration disorders
  • Rat
  • Seizures
  • Status epilepticus


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