Enhanced synaptic transmission in the extended amygdala and altered excitability in an extended amygdala to brainstem circuit in a dravet syndrome mouse model

Wen Wei Yan, Maya Xia, Jeremy Chiang, Alyssa Levitt, Nicole Hawkins, Jennifer Kearney, Geoffrey T. Swanson, Dane M Chetkovich, William P. Nobis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Significance Statement Dravet syndrome (DS) is a developmental and epileptic encephalopathy with an increased risk of sudden death. We determined that there are alterations in a subcortical nucleus, the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) of the extended amygdala, in a murine DS model. The BNST is involved in stress, anxiety, feeding, and respiratory function. We found enhanced activation in the BNST after seizures and alterations in basal synaptic neurotransmission, with enhanced spontaneous EPSC and decreased spontaneous IPSC events. Evaluating those neurons that project to the parabrachial nucleus, a nucleus with multiple homeostatic roles, we found them to be hypoexcitable in DS. Alterations in BNST to brainstem projections could be implicated in comorbid aspects of DS, including respiratory dysfunction and sudden death. Dravet syndrome (DS) is a developmental and epileptic encephalopathy with an increased incidence of sudden death. Evidence of interictal breathing deficits in DS suggests that alterations in subcortical projections to brainstem nuclei may exist, which might be driving comorbidities in DS. The aim of this study was to determine whether a subcortical structure, the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) in the extended amygdala, is activated by seizures, exhibits changes in excitability, and expresses any alterations in neurons projecting to a brainstem nucleus associated with respiration, stress response, and homeostasis. Experiments were conducted using F1 mice generated by breeding 129.Scn1a1/ mice with wild-type C57BL/6J mice. Immunohistochemistry was performed to quantify neuronal c-fos activation in DS mice after observed spontaneous seizures. Whole-cell patch-clamp and current-clamp electrophysiology recordings were conducted to evaluate changes in intrinsic and synaptic excitability in the BNST. Spontaneous seizures in DS mice significantly enhanced neuronal c-fos expression in the BNST. Further, the BNST had altered AMPA/NMDA postsynaptic receptor composition and showed changes in spontaneous neurotransmission, with greater excitation and decreased inhibition. BNST to parabrachial nucleus (PBN) projection neurons exhibited intrinsic excitability in wild-type mice, while these projection neurons were hypoexcitable in DS mice. The findings suggest that there is altered excitability in neurons of the BNST, including BNST-to-PBN projection neurons, in DS mice. These alterations could potentially be driving comorbid aspects of DS outside of seizures, including respiratory dysfunction and sudden death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberENEURO.0306-20.2021
JournaleNeuro
Volume8
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Bed nucleus of the stria terminalis
  • Dravet syndrome
  • Excitability
  • Extended amygdala
  • Parabrachial nucleus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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