Inflammatory processes in brain tissue have been described in human epilepsy of various aetiologies and in experimental models of seizures. This, together with the anticonvulsant properties of anti-inflammatory therapies both in clinical and in experimental settings, highlights the important role of brain inflammation in the aetiopathogenesis of seizures. Preclinical investigations in experimental models using pharmacological and genetic tools have identified a significant contribution of interleukin-1 (IL-1) type 1 receptor/Toll-like receptor (IL-1R/TLR) signalling to seizure activity. This signalling can be activated by ligands associated with infections (pathogen-associated molecular patterns) or by endogenous molecules, such as proinflammatory cytokines (e.g. IL-1beta) or danger signals [damage-associated molecular patterns, e.g. high-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1)]. IL-1beta and HMGB1 are synthesized and released by astrocytes and microglia in the rodent brain during seizures. Notably, a rapid release of HMGB1 from neurons appears to be triggered by proconvulsant drugs even before seizure occurrence and is involved in their precipitation of seizures. The activation of IL-1R/TLR signalling mediates rapid post-translational changes in N-methyl-d-aspartate-gated ion channels in neurons. A long-term decrease in seizure threshold has also been observed, possibly mediated by transcriptional activation of genes contributing to molecular and cellular plasticity. This emerging evidence identifies specific targets with potential anticonvulsant effects in drug-resistant forms of epilepsy.
© 2011 The Association for the Publication of the Journal of Internal Medicine.