Structural and functional collapse of the balance between excitatory (E) and inhibitory (I) synapses, i.e., synaptic E/I balance, underlies the pathogeneses of various central nervous system (CNS) disorders. In epilepsy, the synaptic E/I balance tips toward excitation; thus, most of the existing epileptic remedies have focused on how to directly suppress the activity of neurons. However, because as many as 30% of patients with epilepsy are drug resistant, the discovery of new therapeutic targets is strongly desired. Recently, the roles of glial cells in epilepsy have gained attention because glial cells manipulate synaptic structures and functions in addition to supporting neuronal survival and growth. Among glial cells, microglia, which are brain-resident immune cells, have been shown to mediate inflammation, neuronal death and aberrant neurogenesis after epileptic seizures. However, few studies have investigated the involvement of synaptic pruning-one of the most important roles of microglia-in the epileptic brain. In this review, we propose and discuss the hypothesis that synaptic pruning by microglia is enhanced in the epileptic brain, drawing upon the findings of previous studies. We further discuss the possibility that aberrant synaptic pruning by microglia induces synaptic E/I imbalance, promoting the development and aggravation of epilepsy.
Keywords: C1q; E/I balance; engulfment; epilepsy; microglia; seizure; synapse; synaptic pruning.