Ethosuximide reduces epileptogenesis and behavioral comorbidity in the GAERS model of genetic generalized epilepsy

Epilepsia. 2013 Apr;54(4):635-43. doi: 10.1111/epi.12118. Epub 2013 Mar 6.


Purpose: Ethosuximide (ESX) is a drug of choice for the symptomatic treatment of absence seizures. Chronic treatment with ESX has been reported to have disease-modifying antiepileptogenic activity in the WAG/Rij rat model of genetic generalized epilepsy (GGE) with absence seizures. Here we examined whether chronic treatment with ESX (1) possesses antiepileptogenic effects in the genetic absence epilepsy rats from Strasbourg (GAERS) model of GGE, (2) is associated with a mitigation of behavioral comorbidities, and (3) influences gene expression in the somatosensory cortex region where seizures are thought to originate.

Methods: GAERS and nonepileptic control (NEC) rats were chronically treated with ESX (in drinking water) or control (tap water) from 3 to 22 weeks of age. Subsequently, all animals received tap water only for another 12 weeks to assess enduring effects of treatment. Seizure frequency and anxiety-like behaviors were serially assessed throughout the experimental paradigm. Treatment effects on the expression of key components of the epigenetic molecular machinery, the DNA methyltransferase enzymes, were assessed using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR).

Key findings: ESX treatment significantly reduced seizures in GAERS during the treatment phase, and this effect was maintained during the 12-week posttreatment phase (p < 0.05). Furthermore, the anxiety-like behaviors present in GAERS were reduced by ESX treatment (p < 0.05). Molecular analysis revealed that ESX treatment was associated with increased expression of DNA methyltransferase enzyme messenger RNA (mRNA) in cortex.

Significance: Chronic ESX treatment has disease-modifying effects in the GAERS model of GGE, with antiepileptogenic effects against absence seizures and mitigation of behavioral comorbidities. The cellular mechanism for these effects may involve epigenetic modifications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Body Weight
  • Brain / pathology
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferase 1
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy, Absence / genetics
  • Epilepsy, Absence / pathology
  • Epilepsy, Generalized / drug therapy*
  • Epilepsy, Generalized / genetics*
  • Epilepsy, Generalized / pathology
  • Ethosuximide / therapeutic use*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / drug effects
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Rats
  • Seizures / physiopathology


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Ethosuximide
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferase 1
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases