Purpose: Focal Cortical Dysplasias (FCD) are localized malformative brain lesions in epilepsy. FCD3a associated with hippocampal sclerosis, affects the superficial cortex and is presumed to have an ‘acquired’ rather than developmental origin. Precursor cells may arise outside neurogenic zones including cortical layer I. Our aim was to characterise subsets of glial progenitor cells in the superficial cortical layers, known to be involved in gliosis and gliogenesis and that could distinguish FCD3a from other subtypes.
Methods: Using immunohistochemistry we quantified the density of glial progenitor subsets in superficial cortex layers using markers against PAX6, GFAP, Olig2 and PDGFRβ and proliferation marker MCM2 in ten FCD3a cases compared to 18 other FCD types and 11 non-FCD controls.
Key Findings: Glial progenitor cells types were present in the cortical layer I and II in all FCD groups. GFAP cells frequently expressed PAX6 and significantly higher GFAP/PAX6 than GFAP/MCM2 cell densities were identified in the FCD3a group (p<0.05). Olig2 cell densities were significantly higher in FCD3b than FCD3a (p=0.002) and significantly higher GFAP/MCM2 compared to PDGFRβ/MCM2 cell densities were identified in both FCD3b and FCD2 groups. There was no correlation between cell densities and the age of patients at surgery and between cortical regions.
Significance: Immature and proliferative glial populations across FCD variants reflect ‘reactive cell types and differences may provide insight into underlying pathomechanisms. Higher PAX6 expression in astroglial cells in FCD3a may indicate a switch to astrocytic maturation and enhanced superficial gliosis. Higher Olig2 and GFAP/MCM2 densities in FCD3b may reflect margins of the tumour infiltration zone rather than true cortical dysplasia.