This study reports on a novel brain pathology in young patients with frontal lobe epilepsy (FLE) that is distinct from focal cortical dysplasia (FCD).
Surgical specimens from 20 young adults with FLE (mean age, 30 years) were investigated with histological/immunohistochemical markers for cortical laminar architecture, mammalian target of (mTOR) pathway activation and inhibition, cellular autophagy, and synaptic vesicle-mediated trafficking as well as proteomics analysis. Findings were correlated with pre-/postoperative clinical, imaging, and electrophysiological data.
Excessive lipofuscin accumulation was observed in abnormal dysmorphic neurones in 6 cases, but not in seven FCD type IIB and 7 pathology-negative cases, despite similar age and seizure histories. Abnormal dysmorphic neurones on proteomics analysis were comparable to aged human brains. The mTOR pathway was activated, as in cases with dysplasia, but the immunoreactivities of nucleoporin p62, DEP-domain containing protein 5, clathrin, and dynamin-1 were different between groups, suggesting that enhanced autophagy flux and abnormal synaptic vesicle trafficking contribute to early lipofuscin aggregation in these cases, compared to suppression of autophagy in cases with typical dysplasia. Cases with abnormal neuronal lipofuscin showed subtle magnetic resonance imaging cortical abnormalities that localized with seizure onset zone and were more likely to have a family history.
We propose that excess neuronal lipofuscin accumulation in young patients with FLE represents a novel pathology underlying this epilepsy; the early accumulation of lipofuscin may be disease driven, secondary to as-yet unidentified drivers accelerating autophagic pathways, which may underpin the neuronal dysfunction in this condition.