Neuropathological signs of inflammation correlate with mitochondrial DNA deletions in mesial temporal lobe epilepsy

Acta Neuropathol. 2016 Aug;132(2):277-288. doi: 10.1007/s00401-016-1561-1. Epub 2016 Mar 18.


Accumulation of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) deletions has been proposed to be responsible for the presence of respiratory-deficient neurons in several CNS diseases. Deletions are thought to originate from double-strand breaks due to attack of reactive oxygen species (ROS) of putative inflammatory origin. In epileptogenesis, emerging evidence points to chronic inflammation as an important feature. Here we aimed to analyze the potential association of inflammation and mtDNA deletions in the hippocampal tissue of patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (mTLE) and hippocampal sclerosis (HS). Hippocampal and parahippocampal tissue samples from 74 patients with drug-refractory mTLE served for mtDNA analysis by multiplex PCR as well as long-range PCR, single-molecule PCR and ultra-deep sequencing of mtDNA in selected samples. Patients were sub-classified according to neuropathological findings. Semi-quantitative assessment of neuronal cell loss was performed in the hippocampal regions CA1-CA4. Inflammatory infiltrates were quantified by cell counts in the CA1, CA3 and CA4 regions from well preserved hippocampal samples (n = 33). Samples with HS showed a significantly increased frequency of a 7436-bp mtDNA deletion (p < 0.0001) and a higher proportion of somatic G>T transversions compared to mTLE patients with different histopathology. Interestingly, the number of T-lymphocytes in the hippocampal CA1, CA3 and CA4 regions was, similar to the 7436-bp mtDNA deletion, significantly increased in samples with HS compared to other subgroups. Our findings show a coincidence of HS, increased somatic G>T transversions, the presence of a specific mtDNA deletion, and increased inflammatory infiltrates. These results support the hypothesis that chronic inflammation leads to mitochondrial dysfunction by ROS-mediated mtDNA mutagenesis which promotes epileptogenesis and neuronal cell loss in patients with mTLE and HS.

Keywords: Hippocampal sclerosis neuropathology; Inflammation; Mitochondria; Temporal lobe epilepsy; mtDNA deletions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / genetics
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / metabolism*
  • Female
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing / methods
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurons / pathology*
  • Sclerosis / pathology*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial