Amygdala levels of the GluA1 subunit of glutamate receptors and its phosphorylation state at serine 845 in the anterior hippocampus are biomarkers of ictal fear but not anxiety

Rodrigo Bainy Leal, Mark William Lopes, Douglas Affonso Formolo, Cristiane Ribeiro de Carvalho, Alexandre Ademar Hoeller, Alexandra Latini, Daniel Santos Sousa, Peter Wolf, Rui Daniel Prediger, Zuner Assis Bortolotto, Marcelo Neves Linhares, Kátia Lin, Roger Walz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Fear is a conscious state caused by exposure to real or imagined threats that trigger stress responses that affect the body and brain, particularly limbic structures. A sub-group of patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy related to hippocampus sclerosis (MTLE-HS) have seizures with fear, which is called ictal fear (IF), due to epileptic activity within the brain defensive survival circuit structures. Synaptic transmission efficacy can be bi-directionally modified through potentiation (long-term potentiation (LTP)) or depression (long-term depression (LTD)) as well as the phosphorylation state of Ser831 and Ser845 sites at the GluA1 subunit of the glutamate AMPA receptors, which has been characterized as a critical event for this synaptic plasticity. In this study, GluA1 levels and the phosphorylation at Ser845 and Ser831 in the amygdala (AMY), anterior hippocampus (aHIP) and middle gyrus of temporal neocortex (CX) were determined with western blots and compared between MTLE-HS patients who were showing (n = 06) or not showing (n = 25) IF. Patients with IF had an 11% decrease of AMY levels of the GluA1 subunit (p = 0.05) and a 21.5% decrease of aHIP levels of P-GluA1-Ser845 (p = 0.009) compared to patients not showing IF. The observed associations were not related to imbalances in the distribution of other concomitant types of aura, demographic, clinical or neurosurgical variables. The lower levels of P-GluA1-Ser845 in the aHIP of patients with IF were not related to changes in the levels of the serine/threonine-protein phosphatase PP1-alpha catalytic subunit or protein kinase A activation. Taken together, the GluA1 subunit levels in AMY and P-GluA1-Ser845 levels in the aHIP show an overall accuracy of 89.3% (specificity 95.5% and sensitivity 66.7%) to predict the presence of IF. AMY levels of the GluA1 subunit and aHIP levels of P-GluA1-Ser845 were not associated with the psychiatric diagnosis and symptoms of patients. Taken together with previous findings in MTLE-HS patients with IF who were evaluated by stereotactic implanted depth electrodes, we speculate our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that AMY is not a centre of fear but together with other sub-cortical and cortical structures integrates the defensive circuit that detect and respond to threats. This is the first report to address neuroplasticity features in human limbic structures connected to the defensive survival circuits, which has implications for the comprehension of highly prevalent psychiatric disorders and symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Early online date7 Jun 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

4th April 2018


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