Year of Publication

2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Medicine

Department

Anatomy and Neurobiology

First Advisor

Dr. Greg A. Gerhardt

Abstract

A positive correlation exists between increasing age and the incidence of hippocampal-associated dysfunction and disease. Normal L-glutamate neurotransmission is absolutely critical for hippocampal function, while abnormal glutamate neurotransmission has been implicated in many neurodegenerative diseases. Previous studies, overwhelmingly utilizing ex vivo methods, have filled the literature with contradicting reports about hippocampal glutamate regulation during aging. For our studies, enzyme-based ceramic microelectrode arrays (MEA) were used for rapid (2 Hz) measurements of extracellular glutamate in the hippocampal trisynaptic pathway of young (3-6 months), late-middle aged (18 mo.) and aged (24 mo.) urethane-anesthetized Fischer 344 rats. Compared to young animals, glutamate terminals in cornu ammonis 3 (CA3) showed diminished potassium-evoked glutamate release in aged rats. In late-middle aged animals, terminals in the dentate gyrus (DG) showed increased evoked release compared to young rats. The aged DG demonstrated an increased glutamate clearance capacity, indicating a possible age-related compensation to deal with the increased glutamate release that occurred in late-middle age.

To investigate the impact of changes in glutamate regulation on the expression of a disease process, we modified the MEA technology to allow recordings in unanesthetized rats. These studies permitted us to measure glutamate regulation in the hippocampal formation without anesthetic effects, which showed a significant increase in basal glutamatergic tone during aging. Status epilepticus was induced by local application of 4-aminopyridine. Realtime glutamate measurements allowed us to capture never-before-seen spontaneous and highly rhythmic glutamate release events during status epilepticus. A significant correlation between pre-status tonic glutamate and the quantity of status epilepticus-associated convulsions and glutamate release events was determined. Taken together, this body of work identifies the DG and CA3 as the loci of age-associated glutamate dysregulation in the hippocampus, and establishes elevated levels of glutamate as a key factor controlling severity of status epilepticus in aged animals.

Based upon the potential ability to discriminate brain areas experiencing seizure (i.e. synchronized spontaneous glutamate release) from areas not, we have initiated the development of a MEA for human use during temporal lobe resection surgery. The final studies presented here document the development and testing of a human microelectrode array prototype in non-human primates.

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