Differential Glial Activation in Early Epileptogenesis-Insights From Cell-Specific Analysis of DNA Methylation and Gene Expression in the Contralateral Hippocampus

Front Neurol. 2020 Nov 16;11:573575. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2020.573575. eCollection 2020.


Background and Aims: Morphological changes in mesial temporal lobe epilepsy with hippocampal sclerosis (mTLE-HS) are well-characterized. Yet, it remains elusive whether these are a consequence of seizures or originate from a hitherto unknown underlying pathology. We recently published data on changes in gene expression and DNA methylation in the ipsilateral hippocampus (ILH) using the intracortical kainate mouse model of mTLE-HS. In order to explore the effects of epileptic activity alone and also to further disentangle what triggers morphological alterations, we investigated glial and neuronal changes in gene expression and DNA methylation in the contralateral hippocampus (CLH). Methods: The intracortical kainic acid mouse model of mTLE-HS was used to elicit status epilepticus. Hippocampi contralateral to the injection site from eight kainate-injected and eight sham mice were extracted and shock frozen at 24 h post-injection. Glial and neuronal nuclei were sorted by flow cytometry. Alterations in gene expression and DNA methylation were assessed using reduced representation bisulfite sequencing and RNA sequencing. The R package edgeR was used for statistical analysis. Results: The CLH featured substantial, mostly cell-specific changes in both gene expression and DNA methylation in glia and neurons. While changes in gene expression overlapped to a great degree between CLH and ILH, alterations in DNA methylation did not. In the CLH, we found a significantly lower number of glial genes up- and downregulated compared to previous results from the ILH. Furthermore, several genes and pathways potentially involved in anti-epileptogenic effects were upregulated in the CLH. By comparing gene expression data from the CLH to previous results from the ILH (featuring hippocampal sclerosis), we derive potential upstream targets for epileptogenesis, including glial Cox2 and Cxcl10. Conclusion: Despite the absence of morphological changes, the CLH displays substantial changes in gene expression and DNA methylation. We find that gene expression changes related to potential anti-epileptogenic effects seem to dominate compared to the pro-epileptogenic effects in the CLH and speculate whether this imbalance contributes to prevent morphological alterations like neuronal death and reactive gliosis.

Keywords: DNA methylation; NeuN; TLE; epigenetics; epilepsy; gene expression; glia; neuron.