Does mossy fiber sprouting give rise to the epileptic state?

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014:813:161-8. doi: 10.1007/978-94-017-8914-1_13.


Many patients with temporal lobe epilepsy display structural changes in the seizure initiating zone, which includes the hippocampus. Structural changes in the hippocampus include granule cell axon (mossy fiber) sprouting. The role of mossy fiber sprouting in epileptogenesis is controversial. A popular view of temporal lobe epileptogenesis contends that precipitating brain insults trigger transient cascades of molecular and cellular events that permanently enhance excitability of neuronal networks through mechanisms including mossy fiber sprouting. However, recent evidence suggests there is no critical period for mossy fiber sprouting after an epileptogenic brain injury. Instead, findings from stereological electron microscopy and rapamycin-delayed mossy fiber sprouting in rodent models of temporal lobe epilepsy suggest a persistent, homeostatic mechanism exists to maintain a set level of excitatory synaptic input to granule cells. If so, a target level of mossy fiber sprouting might be determined shortly after a brain injury and then remain constant. Despite the static appearance of synaptic reorganization after its development, work by other investigators suggests there might be continual turnover of sprouted mossy fibers in epileptic patients and animal models. If so, there may be opportunities to reverse established mossy fiber sprouting. However, reversal of mossy fiber sprouting is unlikely to be antiepileptogenic, because blocking its development does not reduce seizure frequency in pilocarpine-treated mice. The challenge remains to identify which, if any, of the many other structural changes in the hippocampus are epileptogenic.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epilepsy / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Fibers / pathology*