Phenobarbital but not diazepam reduces AMPA/kainate receptor mediated currents and exerts opposite actions on initial seizures in the neonatal rat hippocampus

Romain Nardou, Sumii Yamamoto, Asma Bhar, Nail Burnashev, Yehezkel Ben-Ari, Ligam Khalilov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Diazepam (DZP) and phenobarbital (PB) are extensively used as first and second line drugs to treat acute seizures in neonates and their actions are thought to be mediated by increasing the actions of GABAergic signals. Yet, their efficacy is variable with occasional failure or even aggravation of recurrent seizures questioning whether other mechanisms are not involved in their actions. We have now compared the effects of DZP and PB on ictal-like events (ILEs) in an in vitro model of mirror focus (MF). Using the three-compartment chamber with the two immature hippocampi and their commissural fibers placed in three different compartments, kainate was applied to one hippocampus and PB or DZP to the contralateral one, either after one ILE, or after many recurrent ILEs that produce an epilep-togenic MF. We report that in contrast to PB, DZP aggravated propagating ILEs from the start, and did not prevent the formation of MF. PB reduced and DZP increased the network driven giant depolarizing potentials suggesting that PB may exert additional actions that are not mediated by GABA signaling. In keeping with this, PB but not DZP reduced field potentials recorded in the presence of GABA and NMDA receptor antagonists. These effects are mediated by a direct action on AMPA/kainate receptors since PB: (i) reduced AMPA/kainate receptor mediated currents induced by focal applications of glutamate; (ii) reduced the amplitude and the frequency of AMPA but not NMDA receptor mediated miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs); (iii) augmented the number of AMPA receptor mediated EPSCs failures evoked by minimal stimulation. These effects persisted in MF. Therefore, PB exerts its anticonvulsive actions partly by reducing AMPA/kainate receptors mediated EPSCs in addition to the pro-GABA effects. We suggest that PB may have advantage over DZP in the treatment of initial neonatal seizures since the additional reduction of glutamate receptors mediated signals may reduce the severity of neonatal seizures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFrontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
Issue numberJULY
StatePublished - Jul 28 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • AMPA
  • Diazepam
  • Immature hippocampus
  • Phenobarbital
  • Seizures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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