GluN2C selective inhibition is a target to develop new antiepileptic compounds.
OBJECTIVE: Many early-onset epilepsies present as developmental and epileptic encephalopathy associated with refractory seizures, altered psychomotor development, and disorganized interictal cortical activity. Abnormal upregulation of specific N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDA-R) subunits is being disentangled as one of the mechanisms of severe early-onset epilepsies. In tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), upregulation of the GluN2C subunit of the NMDA-R with slow deactivation kinetic results in increased neuronal excitation and synchronization.
METHODS: Starting from an available GluN2C/D antagonist, NMDA-R-modulating compounds were developed and screened using a patch clamp on neuronal culture to select those with the strongest inhibitory effect on glutamatergic NMDA currents. For these selected compounds, blood pharmacokinetics and passage through the blood-brain barrier were studied. We tested the effect of the most promising compounds on epileptic activity in Tsc1+/- mice brain slices with multielectrode array, and then in vivo at postnatal ages P14-P17, comparable with the usual age at epilepsy onset in human TSC.
RESULTS: Using a double-electrode voltage clamp on isolated NMDA currents, we identified the most prominent antagonists of the GluN2C subunit with no effect on GluN2A as a means of preventing side effects. The best compound passing through the blood-brain barrier was selected. Applied in vivo in six Tsc1+/- mice at P14-P17, this compound reduced or completely stopped spontaneous seizures in four of them, and decreased the background activity disorganization. Furthermore, ictal-like discharges stopped on a human brain sample from an infant with epilepsy due to TSC.
INTERPRETATION: Subunit-selective inhibition is a valuable target for developing drugs for severe epilepsies resulting from an upregulation of NMDA-R subunit-mediated transmission.