Inflammation in Epileptic Encephalopathies

Adv Protein Chem Struct Biol. 2017;108:59-84. doi: 10.1016/bs.apcsb.2017.01.005. Epub 2017 Feb 28.


West syndrome (WS) is an infantile epileptic encephalopathy that manifests with infantile spasms (IS), hypsarrhythmia (in ~60% of infants), and poor neurodevelopmental outcomes. The etiologies of WS can be structural-metabolic pathologies (~60%), genetic (12%-15%), or of unknown origin. The current treatment options include hormonal treatment (adrenocorticotropic hormone and high-dose steroids) and the GABA aminotransferase inhibitor vigabatrin, while ketogenic diet can be given as add-on treatment in refractory IS. There is a need to identify new therapeutic targets and more effective treatments for WS. Theories about the role of inflammatory pathways in the pathogenesis and treatment of WS have emerged, being supported by both clinical and preclinical data from animal models of WS. Ongoing advances in genetics have revealed numerous genes involved in the pathogenesis of WS, including genes directly or indirectly involved in inflammation. Inflammatory pathways also interact with other signaling pathways implicated in WS, such as the neuroendocrine pathway. Furthermore, seizures may also activate proinflammatory pathways raising the possibility that inflammation can be a consequence of seizures and epileptogenic processes. With this targeted review, we plan to discuss the evidence pro and against the following key questions. Does activation of inflammatory pathways in the brain cause epilepsy in WS and does it contribute to the associated comorbidities and progression? Can activation of certain inflammatory pathways be a compensatory or protective event? Are there interactions between inflammation and the neuroendocrine system that contribute to the pathogenesis of WS? Does activation of brain inflammatory signaling pathways contribute to the transition of WS to Lennox-Gastaut syndrome? Are there any lead candidates or unexplored targets for future therapy development for WS targeting inflammation?

Keywords: Cognition; Epilepsy; Inflammation; Lennox–Gastaut syndrome; Multiple-hit model; Neuroinflammation; West syndrome; mTOR.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / immunology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Epilepsy / complications*
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy / immunology
  • Epilepsy / pathology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Inflammation / complications*
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Lennox Gastaut Syndrome / complications
  • Lennox Gastaut Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Lennox Gastaut Syndrome / immunology
  • Lennox Gastaut Syndrome / pathology
  • Neurosecretory Systems / drug effects
  • Neurosecretory Systems / immunology
  • Neurosecretory Systems / pathology
  • Seizures / complications
  • Seizures / drug therapy
  • Seizures / immunology
  • Seizures / pathology
  • Spasms, Infantile / complications
  • Spasms, Infantile / drug therapy
  • Spasms, Infantile / immunology
  • Spasms, Infantile / pathology


  • Cytokines