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A selective decrease in the number of GABAergic somata occurs in pre-seizing monkeys with alumina gel granuloma.


Previous studies have shown that a loss of GABAergic neuronal somata is associated with a loss of GABAergic terminals at chronic cortical epileptic foci in monkeys. The present study was undertaken to determine whether GABAergic neuronal loss occurs prior to the onset of clinical seizures in monkeys that were treated with alumina gel but did not display seizures. Seven adolescent (Macaca mulatta) monkeys received alumina gel implants into the left pre- and post-central gyri, specifically centered in hand-face regions of sensorimotor cortex. Three other monkeys were used as controls. Two of these were surgical controls and the third was a normal animal. Three monkeys (pre-seizing) were sacrificed 2-4 weeks after the alumina gel implant but prior to clinically active seizures. Three other monkeys with chronic seizure activity (chronically seizing) were sacrificed 3-6 months after the implant. Tissue sections were taken from an area adjacent to the alumina gel granuloma (focus), from a site distal to it (parafocus) and from the non-epileptic contralateral side. Sections from all monkeys were processed for glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) immunocytochemistry and then examined with a light microscope. In addition, adjacent sections were stained with a Nissl stain and the total number of neurons was counted in these sections. Statistical analysis showed a significant decrease in the number of GAD-positive cells in the pre-seizing and chronic animals. The pre-seizing monkeys showed a significant loss of 23-44% at the focus in contrast to the total number of neurons which did not change significantly. The loss of GAD-positive cells was greater in the chronic animals that showed significant losses at both the focus and parafocus, 42-61% and 15-26%, respectively. It is important to note that the chronic monkeys displayed an 11-61% significant loss of total neurons at the epileptic focus. The surgical control animals showed no seizure activity and no significant loss of total neurons or GAD-positive cells. The main finding of this study indicates that a selective loss of GAD-positive neuronal somata occurs in pre-seizing monkeys with alumina gel implants. This finding is consistent with the previously reported loss of GABAergic terminals in pre-seizing monkeys. Since virtually all monkeys treated with alumina gel develop seizures, the results of this study add further support to the hypothesis that GABA neuronal loss plays a causal role in focal epilepsy.

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