Objective: Dystrophin is part of a protein complex that connects the cytoskeleton to the extracellular matrix. In addition to its role in muscle tissue, it functions as an anchoring protein within the central nervous system such as in hippocampus and cerebellum. Its presence in the latter regions is illustrated by the cognitive problems seen in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Since epilepsy is also supposed to constitute a comorbidity of DMD, it is hypothesized that dystrophin plays a role in neuronal excitability. Here, we aimed to study brain dystrophin distribution and expression in both, human and experimental temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). Method: Regional and cellular dystrophin distribution was evaluated in both human and rat hippocampi and in rat cerebellar tissue by immunofluorescent colocalization with neuronal (NeuN and calbindin) and glial (GFAP) markers. In addition, hippocampal dystrophin levels were estimated by Western blot analysis in biopsies from TLE patients, post-mortem controls, amygdala kindled (AK)-, and control rats. Results: Dystrophin was expressed in all hippocampal pyramidal subfields and in the molecular-, Purkinje-, and granular cell layer of the cerebellum. In these regions it colocalized with GFAP, suggesting expression in astrocytes such as Bergmann glia (BG) and velate protoplasmic astrocytes. In rat hippocampus and cerebellum there were neither differences in dystrophin positive cell types, nor in the regional dystrophin distribution between AK and control animals. Quantitatively, hippocampal full-length dystrophin (Dp427) levels were about 60% higher in human TLE patients than in post-mortem controls (p <0.05), whereas the level of the shorter Dp71 isoform did not differ. In contrast, AK animals showed similar dystrophin levels as controls. Conclusion: Dystrophin is ubiquitously expressed by astrocytes in the human and rat hippocampus and in the rat cerebellum. Hippocampal full-length dystrophin (Dp427) levels are upregulated in human TLE, but not in AK rats, possibly indicating a compensatory mechanism in the chronic epileptic human brain.
- Duchenne muscular dystrophy