Long-lasting pro-ictogenic effects induced in vivo by rat brain exposure to serum albumin in the absence of concomitant pathology

Federica Frigerio, Angelisa Frasca, Itai Weissberg, Sara Parrella, Alon Friedman, Annamaria Vezzani, Francesco M. Noe'

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Dysfunction of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a common finding during seizures or following epileptogenic brain injuries, and experimentally induced BBB opening promotes seizures both in naive and epileptic animals. Brain albumin extravasation was reported to promote hyperexcitability by inducing astrocytes dysfunction. To provide in vivo evidence for a direct role of extravasated serum albumin in seizures independently on the pathologic context, we did the following: (1) quantified the amount of serum albumin extravasated in the rat brain parenchyma during status epilepticus (SE); (2) reproduced a similar concentration in the hippocampus by intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) albumin injection in naive rats; (3) measured electroencephalography (EEG) activity in these rats, their susceptibility to kainic acid (KA)-induced seizures, and their hippocampal afterdischarge threshold (ADT). Methods: Brain albumin concentration was measured in the rat hippocampus and other forebrain regions 2 and 24 h after SE by western blot analysis. Brain distribution of serum albumin or fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-albumin was studied by immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence, respectively. Naive rats were injected with rat albumin or FITC-albumin, i.c.v., to mimic the brain concentration attained after SE, or with dextran used as control. Inflammation was evaluated by immunohistochemistry by measuring glial induction of interleukin (IL)-1β. Western blot analysis was used to measure inward rectifying potassium channel subunit Kir4.1 protein levels in the hippocampus. Seizures were induced in rats by intrahippocampal injection of 80 ng KA and quantified by EEG analysis, 2 or 24 h after rat albumin or dextran administration. ADT was measured by electrical stimulation of the hippocampus 3 months after albumin injection. In these rats, EEG was continuously monitored for 2 weeks to search for spontaneous seizures. Key Findings: The hippocampal serum albumin concentration 24 h post-SE was 0.76 ± 0.21 μm. Similar concentrations were measured in other forebrain regions, whereas no changes were found in cerebellum. The hippocampal albumin concentration was similarly reproduced in naive rats by i.c.v. administration of 500 μg/4 μl rat albumin: albumin was predominantly detected extracellularly 2 h after injection, whereas at 24 h it was visible inside pyramidal neurons and in only a few scattered chondroitin sulphate proteoglycan (NG2)-positive cells, but not in glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)-positive astrocytes or CR-3 complement receptor (OX-42)-positive microglia. The presence of albumin in naive rat hippocampus was associated with induced IL-1β in GFAP-positive astrocytes and a concomitant tissue down-regulation of Kir4.1. Spiking activity was evoked by albumin in the hippocampus lasting for 2 h. When KA was intrahippocampally applied either 2 or 24 h after albumin injection, the number of total interictal spikes in 3 h EEG recording was significantly increased by twofold on average. Three months after albumin injection, neither albumin nor inflammation was detected in brain tissue; at this time, the ADT was reduced by 50% but no spontaneous seizures were observed. Significance: Transient hippocampal exposure to albumin levels similar to those attained after prominent BBB breakdown resulted in increased seizure susceptibility and long-term reduction in seizure threshold, but it did not evoke spontaneous seizures. These effects may be mediated by albumin-induced astrocytes dysfunction and the associated induction of proinflammatory molecules.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1887-1897
Number of pages11
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


  • Afterdischarge
  • Astrocytes
  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Inflammation
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Seizures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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