Increasing evidence supports the involvement of immune and inflammatory processes in the etiopathogenesis of seizures. In particular, activation of innate immune mechanisms and the subsequent inflammatory responses, that are induced in the brain by infection, febrile seizures, neurotrauma, stroke are well documented conditions associated with acute symptomatic seizures and with a high risk of developing epilepsy. A decade ago, pharmacological experiments showed that elevated brain levels of the anti-inflammatory molecule IL-1 receptor antagonist reduced seizures in epilepsy models. This observation, together with the evidence of in situ induction of inflammatory mediators and their receptors in experimental and human epileptogenic brain tissue, established the proof-of-concept evidence that the activation of innate immunity and inflammation in the brain are intrinsic features of the pathologic hyperexcitable tissue. Recent breakthroughs in understanding the molecular organization of the innate immune system first in macrophages, then in the different cell types of the CNS, together with pharmacological and genetic studies in epilepsy models, showed that the activation of IL-1 receptor/Toll-like receptor (IL-1R/TLR) signaling significantly contributes to seizures. IL-1R/TLR mediated pro-excitatory actions are elicited in the brain either by mimicking bacterial or viral infections and inflammatory responses, or via the action of endogenous ligands. These ligands include proinflammatory cytokines, such as IL-1beta, or danger signals, such as HMGB1, released from activated or injured cells. The IL-1R/TLR signaling mediates rapid post-translational changes in voltage- and ligand-gated ion channels that increase excitability, and transcriptional changes in genes involved in neurotransmission and synaptic plasticity that contribute to lower seizure thresholds chronically. The anticonvulsant effects of inhibitors of the IL-1R/TLR signaling in various seizures models suggest that this system could be targeted to inhibit seizures in presently pharmaco-resistant epilepsies.
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