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Selective death of hippocampal CA3 pyramidal cells with mossy fiber afferents after CRH-induced status epilepticus in infant rats.


Previous studies of CRH-induced status epilepticus in infant rats demonstrated neuronal loss in several limbic structures, including the CA3 region of the hippocampus. The goal of the present study was to identify the neurons affected by CRH-induced seizures and determine whether they formed synapses with afferent axon terminals. Clusters of neurons in the CA3 region of the hippocampus were osmiophilic when viewed in thick sections. Semi-thin 2-microns sections of the pyramidal cell layer contained dark, shrunken neurons with apical and basal dendrites among normal appearing pyramidal cells. Electron microscopy revealed degenerating pyramidal cells with intact cell membranes and electron dense nuclei and cytoplasm. The shrunken dendrites of these cells had spines and were postsynaptic to large immature-appearing mossy fibers. Thus, CA3 pyramidal neurons that are linked via mossy fibers to the tri-synaptic excitatory hippocampal circuit die subsequent to CRH-induced status epilepticus. The shrunken appearance and selective loss of these neurons are incompatible with necrosis as the mechanism of degeneration.

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