The mTOR pathway is activated in glial cells in mesial temporal sclerosis

Alexander A. Sosunov, Xiaoping Wu, Robert A. McGovern, David G. Coughlin, Charles B. Mikell, Robert R. Goodman, Guy M. McKhann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a key protein kinase that regulates basic cellular processes, including development and growth. Mutations in mTOR cause tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), a condition that is characterized by developmental brain malformations (cortical tubers) and epilepsy. Although considerable insight has been gained recently into the pathologic dysfunction of mTOR in tubers in TSC-related epilepsy, data on the mTOR cascade in mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (MTLE) are lacking. Immunohistochemical investigation with confocal microscopy was performed to evaluate mTOR cascade and to correlate its activity with cellular alterations observed in surgically resected samples of human neocortex and hippocampus in MTLE. We compared results in human tissue to findings in the rat pilocarpine model of sclerotic MTLE. In nonsclerotic and control hippocampus, many neurons in the CA1 subfield expressed high levels of phospho-S6 (p-S6), a reliable marker of mTOR activation. In nonsclerotic and control hippocampus, as well as in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) normal human neocortex, protoplasmic astrocytes did not express p-S6. In contrast, in sclerotic hippocampus, prominent p-S6 immunostaining was observed mainly in astrocytes and microglia located in the areas of neuronal loss and astrogliosis, whereas neurons in preserved areas of CA1 expressed significantly lower levels of p-S6 immunopositivity than neurons in nonsclerotic or control CA1 subfields. In surgically resected neocortex with chronic astroglial scar tissue, only microglia revealed moderate p-S6 immunoreactivity. Different from human sclerotic epileptic hippocampus, astrogliosis in the chronic rat pilocarpine model of epilepsy was not characterized by glial cells with mTOR activation. The mTOR cascade is activated in astroglial cells in sclerotic MTLE, but not in astrocytes in chronic neocortical scarring or in the pilocarpine model of MTLE. These findings suggest that the astroglial "scar" in sclerotic MTLE has active, ongoing cellular changes. Targeting mTOR in MTLE may provide new pathways for the medical therapy of epilepsy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-86
Number of pages9
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Astrogliosis
  • Hippocampal sclerosis
  • Mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (MTLE)
  • mTOR


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