The density of somatostatin (SOM)-containing GABAergic interneurons in the hilus of the dentate gyrus is significantly decreased in both human and experimental temporal lobe epilepsy. We used the pilocarpine model of status epilepticus and temporal lobe epilepsy in mice to study anatomical and electrophysiological properties of surviving somatostatin interneurons and determine whether compensatory functional changes occur that might offset loss of other inhibitory neurons. Using standard patch-clamp techniques and pipettes containing biocytin, whole cell recordings were obtained in hippocampal slices maintained in vitro. Hilar SOM cells containing enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) were identified with fluorescent and infrared differential interference contrast video microscopy in epileptic and control GIN (EGFP-expressing Inhibitory Neurons) mice. Results showed that SOM cells from epileptic mice had 1) significant increases in somatic area and dendritic length; 2) changes in membrane properties, including a small but significant decrease in resting membrane potential, and increases in time constant and whole cell capacitance; 3) increased frequency of slowly rising spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSCs) due primarily to increased mEPSC frequency, without changes in the probability of release; 4) increased evoked EPSC amplitude; and 5) increased spontaneous action potential generation in cell-attached recordings. Results suggest an increase in excitatory innervation, perhaps on distal dendrites, considering the slower rising EPSCs and increased output of hilar SOM cells in this model of epilepsy. In sum, these changes would be expected to increase the inhibitory output of surviving SOM interneurons and in part compensate for interneuronal loss in the epileptogenic hippocampus.
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