Tuberous sclerosis and epilepsy: role of astrocytes

Glia. 2012 Aug;60(8):1244-50. doi: 10.1002/glia.22326. Epub 2012 Mar 21.


Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is an autosomal dominant disorder that is among the most common genetic causes of epilepsy. Focal brain lesions in TSC, known as cortical tubers, have been implicated in promoting epileptogenesis in TSC. Histological, cellular, and molecular abnormalities in astrocytes are characteristic features of tubers and perituberal cortex, suggesting that astrocyte dysfunction may contribute to the pathophysiology of epilepsy in TSC. Numerous astrocytes can be seen histologically in tubers expressing glial fibrillary acidic and S100 proteins. In some analyses, astrocytes exhibit enhanced activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin suggesting a link between TSC1 and TSC2 mutations and astrocytic proliferation. Astrocytic proliferation in subependymal giant cell astrocytoma is associated with progressive growth and compression of surrounding brain structures by these lesions. Increased numbers of enlarged astrocytes has been observed in several TSC mouse models and may be intimately linked to epileptogenesis. Impairment of astrocytic buffering mechanisms for glutamate and potassium has been identified in TSC animal models and human tuber tissue and likely promotes neuronal excitability and seizures in TSC. Targeting these defects in astrocytes may represent a novel therapeutic strategy for epilepsy in patients with TSC.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Epilepsy / etiology*
  • Epilepsy / pathology*
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Humans
  • S100 Proteins / metabolism
  • Tuberous Sclerosis / complications*
  • Tuberous Sclerosis / mortality


  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • S100 Proteins