Cortical Parvalbumin-Positive Interneuron Development and Function Are Altered in the APC Conditional Knockout Mouse Model of Infantile and Epileptic Spasms Syndrome

J Neurosci. 2023 Feb 22;43(8):1422-1440. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0572-22.2022. Epub 2023 Jan 30.


Infantile and epileptic spasms syndrome (IESS) is a childhood epilepsy syndrome characterized by infantile or late-onset spasms, abnormal neonatal EEG, and epilepsy. Few treatments exist for IESS, clinical outcomes are poor, and the molecular and circuit-level etiologies of IESS are not well understood. Multiple human IESS risk genes are linked to Wnt/β-catenin signaling, a pathway that controls developmental transcriptional programs and promotes glutamatergic excitation via β-catenin's role as a synaptic scaffold. We previously showed that deleting adenomatous polyposis coli (APC), a component of the β-catenin destruction complex, in excitatory neurons (APC cKO mice, APCfl/fl x CaMKIIαCre) increased β-catenin levels in developing glutamatergic neurons and led to infantile behavioral spasms, abnormal neonatal EEG, and adult epilepsy. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the development of GABAergic interneurons (INs) is disrupted in APC cKO male and female mice. IN dysfunction is implicated in human IESS, is a feature of other rodent models of IESS, and may contribute to the manifestation of spasms and seizures. We found that parvalbumin-positive INs (PV+ INs), an important source of cortical inhibition, were decreased in number, underwent disproportionate developmental apoptosis, and had altered dendrite morphology at P9, the peak of behavioral spasms. PV+ INs received excessive excitatory input, and their intrinsic ability to fire action potentials was reduced at all time points examined (P9, P14, P60). Subsequently, GABAergic transmission onto pyramidal neurons was uniquely altered in the somatosensory cortex of APC cKO mice at all ages, with both decreased IPSC input at P14 and enhanced IPSC input at P9 and P60. These results indicate that inhibitory circuit dysfunction occurs in APC cKOs and, along with known changes in excitation, may contribute to IESS-related phenotypes.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Infantile and epileptic spasms syndrome (IESS) is a devastating epilepsy with limited treatment options and poor clinical outcomes. The molecular, cellular, and circuit disruptions that cause infantile spasms and seizures are largely unknown, but inhibitory GABAergic interneuron dysfunction has been implicated in rodent models of IESS and may contribute to human IESS. Here, we use a rodent model of IESS, the APC cKO mouse, in which β-catenin signaling is increased in excitatory neurons. This results in altered parvalbumin-positive GABAergic interneuron development and GABAergic synaptic dysfunction throughout life, showing that pathology arising in excitatory neurons can initiate long-term interneuron dysfunction. Our findings further implicate GABAergic dysfunction in IESS, even when pathology is initiated in other neuronal types.

Keywords: GABA; cortex; development; infantile spasms; inhibition; parvalbumin interneurons.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli* / metabolism
  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli* / pathology
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Epilepsy* / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Parvalbumins / metabolism
  • Seizures
  • Spasm / metabolism
  • Spasm / pathology
  • Spasms, Infantile* / metabolism
  • beta Catenin / metabolism


  • Parvalbumins
  • beta Catenin