Acute knockdown of Depdc5 leads to synaptic defects in mTOR-related epileptogenesis

Antonio De Fusco, Maria Sabina Cerullo, Antonella Marte, Caterina Michetti, Alessandra Romei, Enrico Castroflorio, Stephanie Baulac, Fabio Benfenati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


DEP-domain containing 5 (DEPDC5) is part of the GATOR1 complex that functions as key inhibitor of the mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1). Loss-of-function mutations in DEPDC5 leading to mTOR hyperactivation have been identified as the most common cause of either lesional or non-lesional focal epilepsy. However, the precise mechanisms by which DEPDC5 loss-of-function triggers neuronal and network hyperexcitability are still unclear. In this study, we investigated the cellular mechanisms of hyperexcitability by comparing the constitutive heterozygous Depdc5 knockout mouse versus different levels of acute Depdc5 deletion (≈40% and ≈80% neuronal knockdown of Depdc5 protein) by RNA interference in primary cortical cultures. While heterozygous Depdc5+/− neurons have only a subtle phenotype, acutely knocked-down neurons exhibit a strong dose-dependent phenotype characterized by mTOR hyperactivation, increased soma size, dendritic arborization, excitatory synaptic transmission and intrinsic excitability. The robust synaptic phenotype resulting from the acute knockdown Depdc5 deficiency highlights the importance of the temporal dynamics of Depdc5 knockdown in triggering the phenotypic changes, reminiscent of the somatic second-hit mechanism in patients with focal cortical dysplasia. These findings uncover a novel synaptic phenotype that is causally linked to Depdc5 knockdown, highlighting the developmental role of Depdc5. Interestingly, the synaptic defect appears to affect only excitatory synapses, while inhibitory synapses develop normally. The increased frequency and amplitude of mEPSCs, paralleled by increased density of excitatory synapses and expression of glutamate receptors, may generate an excitation/inhibition imbalance that triggers epileptogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104822
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Depdc5
  • Epilepsy
  • Focal cortical dysplasia
  • Heterozygous mice
  • Knockdown
  • mTOR pathway
  • RNA interference
  • Synapses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology


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