Childhood absence epilepsy (CAE) is the most common pediatric epilepsy syndrome and is characterized by typical absence seizures (AS). AS are non-convulsive epileptic seizures characterized by a sudden loss of awareness and bilaterally generalized synchronous 2.5-4 Hz spike and slow-wave discharges (SWD). Gamma butyrolactone (GBL) is an acute pharmacological model of AS and induces bilaterally synchronous SWDs and behavioral arrest. Despite the long use of this model, little is known about its strain and sex-dependent features. We compared the dose-response profile of GBL-evoked SWDs in three rat strains (Long Evans, Sprague-Dawley, and Wistar), and examined the modulatory effects of estrous cycle on SWDs in female Wistar rats. We evaluated the number of seizures, the cumulative time seizing, and the average seizure duration as a function of dose, strain, and sex/estrous phase. Long Evans rats displayed the greatest sensitivity to GBL, followed by Wistar rats, and then by Sprague-Dawley rats. GBL-evoked SWDs were modulated by estrous cycle in female rats, with the lowest sensitivity to GBL occurring during metestrus. Wistar rats showed the greatest variability as a function of dose, and the least variability within dose; these features make this strain desirable for interventional studies. Moreover, our finding that the SWD response to GBL differs as a function of estrous cycle underscores the importance of cycle monitoring in studies examining female animals using this model. Together, these strain and sex-dependent findings provide guidance for future studies.
Keywords: Epilepsy; Estrous cycle; GBL; GHB; Generalized spike-and-wave discharge; Reticular thalamic nucleus; Sex differences; Typical absence seizures.
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