Molecular and subregion mechanisms of episodic memory phenotypes in temporal lobe epilepsy

Brain Commun. 2022 Nov 5;4(6):fcac285. doi: 10.1093/braincomms/fcac285. eCollection 2022.


Memory dysfunction is prevalent in temporal lobe epilepsy, but little is known about the underlying pathophysiological etiologies. Here, we use spatial quantitation to examine differential expression of targeted proteins and transcripts in four brain regions essential for episodic memory (dentate gyrus, CA3, CA1, neocortex) between temporal lobe epilepsy patients with and without episodic memory impairment. Brain tissues were obtained from dominant temporal lobectomies in 16 adults with pharmacoresistant temporal lobe epilepsy associated with hippocampal sclerosis. Verbal memory tests from routine pre-operative clinical care were used to classify episodic memory as impaired or intact. Digital spatial profiling of a targeted protein panel and the whole transcriptome was performed using tissue sections from the temporal neocortex and hippocampus. We performed differential expression and pathway enrichment analysis between the memory groups within each temporal lobe region. Several proteins associated with neurodegenerative disease were overexpressed in the neocortex of patients with impaired memory, corroborating our prior findings using bulk transcriptomics. Spatial transcriptomics identified numerous differentially expressed transcripts in both neocortical and hippocampal subregions between memory groups, with little overlap across subregions. The strongest molecular signal was observed in the CA3 hippocampal subregion, known to play an essential role in memory encoding. Enrichment analyses revealed BDNF as a central hub in CA3-related networks regulating phenotype-relevant processes such as cognition, memory, long-term potentiation and neuritogenesis (Padj < 0.05). Results suggest memory impairment in temporal lobe epilepsy with hippocampal sclerosis is associated with molecular alterations within temporal lobe subregions that are independent from hippocampal cell loss, demographic variables and disease characteristics. Importantly, each temporal subregion shows a unique molecular signature associated with memory impairment. While many differentially expressed transcripts and proteins in the neocortex have been associated with neurodegenerative disorders/processes, differentially expressed transcripts in hippocampal subregions involve genes associated with neuritogenesis and long-term potentiation, processes essential for new memory formation.

Keywords: RNA-Seq; memory; spatial transcriptome; targeted spatial protein profiling; temporal lobe epilepsy.