Blood-brain barrier breakdown-inducing astrocytic transformation: Novel targets for the prevention of epilepsy

Alon Friedman, Daniela Kaufer, Uwe Heinemann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

218 Scopus citations


Epileptogenesis is common following brain insults such as trauma, ischemia and infection. However, the mechanisms underlying injury-related epileptogenesis remain unknown. Recent studies demonstrated impaired integrity of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) during epileptogenesis. Here we review accumulating experimental evidence supporting the potential involvement of primary BBB lesion in epileptogenesis. Data from animal experiments demonstrate that primary breakdown of the BBB prone animals to develop focal neocortical epilepsy that is followed by neuronal loss and impaired functions. The extravasation of albumin from the circulation into the brain neuropil was found to be sufficient for the induction of epileptogenesis. Albumin binds to transforming growth factor β receptor 2 (TGFβR2) in astrocytes and induces rapid transcriptional modifications, astrocytic transformation and dysfunction. We highlight a novel cascade of events which is initiated by increased BBB permeability, eventually leading to neuronal dysfunction, epilepsy and cell loss. We review potential mechanisms and existing experimental evidence for the important role of astrocytes and the TGFβ pathway in epileptogenesis. Finally, we review evidence from human clinical data supporting the involvement of BBB lesion in epilepsy. We propose that primary vascular injury, and specifically BBB breakdown and repair, are key elements in altered interactions within the neurovascular unit and thus may serve as new therapeutic targets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-149
Number of pages8
JournalEpilepsy Research
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2009


  • Astrocytes
  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Epileptogenesis
  • Transforming growth factor β

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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