Ultrastructural plasticity of the dentate gyrus granule cells following recurrent limbic seizures: I. Increase in somatic spines

Hippocampus. 1994 Oct;4(5):601-10. doi: 10.1002/hipo.450040510.


Various paradigms have been used to assess the capacity of the adult brain to undergo activity-dependent morphological plasticity. In this report we have employed recurrent limbic seizures as a means of studying the effects of this form of enhanced neuronal activity on cellular morphology and, in particular, on the incidence of somatic spines on the dentate gyrus granule cells. Seizure activity was induced by the placement of focal, unilateral electrolytic lesions in the dentate gyrus hilus of adult rats. At various intervals postlesion, rats with behaviorally verified seizures were sacrificed, and the hippocampi contralateral to the lesions were removed and prepared for electron microscopy. Quantitative analysis showed that as early as 5 hours postlesion there was a dramatic increase in the density and morphological complexity of spines on the perikarya of the granule cells in rats that received seizure-producing hilus lesions when compared to granule cells from control rats. Many of the somatic spines received asymmetric synapses. The increase in somatic spines was dependent on seizure activity and persisted for at least 1 month following a single recurrent seizure episode. CA1 pyramidal neurons, which exhibit changes in gene expression in response to hilus lesion-induced seizures but do not normally possess somatic spines, did not exhibit an activity-dependent elaboration of somatic spines. Thus, the seizure-induced elaboration of somatic spines represents an amplification of an existing feature of the granule cells and not an effect occurring throughout hippocampus. These data provide evidence for very rapid and long-lasting structural plasticity in response to brief episodes of seizure activity in the adult brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epilepsies, Partial / etiology
  • Epilepsies, Partial / physiopathology*
  • Hippocampus / injuries
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology*
  • Hippocampus / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neurites / ultrastructure*
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Recurrence