Epilepsy is a prevalent neurological disorder worldwide. It is characterized by an enduring predisposition to generate seizures and its development is accompanied by alterations in many cellular processes. Organotypic slice cultures represent a multicellular environment with the potential to assess biological mechanisms, and they are used as a starting point for refining molecules for in vivo studies. Here, we investigated organotypic slice cultures as a model of epilepsy.
We assessed, by electrophysiological recordings, the spontaneous activity of organotypic slices maintained under different culture protocols. Moreover, we evaluated, through molecular-based approaches, neurogenesis, neuronal death, gliosis, expression of proinflammatory cytokines, and activation of NLRP3 inflammasome (nucleotide-binding, leucine-rich repeat, pyrin domain) as biomarkers of neuroinflammation.
We demonstrated that organotypic slices, maintained under a serum deprivation culture protocol, develop epileptic-like activity. Furthermore, throughout a comparative study with slices that do not depict any epileptiform activity, slices with epileptiform activity were found to display significant differences in terms of inflammation-related features, such as (1) increased neuronal death, with higher incidence in CA1 pyramidal neurons of the hippocampus; (2) activation of astrocytes and microglia, assessed through western blot and immunohistochemistry; (3) upregulation of proinflammatory cytokines, specifically interleukin-1β (IL-1β), interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor α, revealed by qPCR; and (4) enhanced expression of NLRP3, assessed by western blot, together with increased NLRP3 activation, showed by IL-1β quantification.
Thus, organotypic slice cultures gradually deprived of serum mimic the epileptic-like activity, as well as the inflammatory events associated with in vivo epilepsy. This system can be considered a new tool to explore the interplay between neuroinflammation and epilepsy and to screen potential drug candidates, within the inflammatory cascades, to reduce/halt epileptogenesis.