Hippocampal mossy fiber sprouting induced by chronic electroconvulsive seizures

Neuroscience. 1999 Mar;89(1):157-66. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(98)00289-9.


Stress, which can precipitate and exacerbate depression, causes atrophy and in severe cases death of hippocampal neurons. Atrophy of the hippocampus has also been observed in patients suffering from recurrent major depression. The present study examines the influence of electroconvulsive seizures, one of the most effective treatments for depression, on the morphology and survival of hippocampal neurons. The results demonstrate that chronic administration of electroconvulsive seizures induces sprouting of the granule cell mossy fiber pathway in the hippocampus. This sprouting is dependent on repeated administration of electroconvulsive seizures, reaches a maximum 12 days after the last treatment and is long lasting (i.e. up to six months). Electroconvulsive seizure-induced sprouting occurs in the absence of neuronal loss, indicating that sprouting is not a compensatory response to cell death. This is different from the sprouting induced by kindling or excitotoxin treatment, which induce cell death along with recurrent seizures. Electroconvulsive seizure-induced sprouting is significantly diminished in brain-derived neurotrophic factor heterozygote knockout mice, indicating that this neurotrophic factor contributes to mossy fiber sprouting. However, infusion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor into the hippocampus does not induce sprouting of the mossy fiber pathway. The results demonstrate that chronic administration of electroconvulsive seizures induces mossy fiber sprouting and suggest that increased expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor is necessary, but not sufficient for the induction of this sprouting. Although the functional consequences remain unclear, sprouting of the mossy fiber pathway would appear to oppose the actions of stress and could thereby contribute to the therapeutic actions of electroconvulsive seizure therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Electroshock
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Gene Expression / physiology
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Mossy Fibers, Hippocampal / chemistry
  • Mossy Fibers, Hippocampal / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Stress, Physiological / physiopathology*


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • RNA, Messenger