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Advances in Pharmacological Sciences
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 790590, 12 pages
Review Article

Augmentation of Tonic GABAA Inhibition in Absence Epilepsy: Therapeutic Value of Inverse Agonists at Extrasynaptic GABAA Receptors

1School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Museum Avenue, Cardiff CF10 3US, UK
2Neuroscience Division, School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Museum Avenue, Cardiff CF10 3AX, UK

Received 17 March 2011; Accepted 16 May 2011

Academic Editor: Keith Wafford

Copyright © 2011 Adam C. Errington et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


It is well established that impaired GABAergic inhibition within neuronal networks can lead to hypersynchronous firing patterns that are the typical cellular hallmark of convulsive epileptic seizures. However, recent findings have highlighted that a pathological enhancement of GABAergic signalling within thalamocortical circuits is a necessary and sufficient condition for nonconvulsive typical absence seizure genesis. In particular, increased activation of extrasynaptic GABAA receptors (eGABAAR) and augmented “tonic” GABAA inhibition in thalamocortical neurons have been demonstrated across a range of genetic and pharmacological models of absence epilepsy. Moreover, evidence from monogenic mouse models (stargazer/lethargic) and the polygenic Genetic Absence Epilepsy Rats from Strasbourg (GAERS) indicate that the mechanism underlying eGABAAR gain of function is nonneuronal in nature and results from a deficiency in astrocytic GABA uptake through the GAT-1 transporter. These results challenge the existing theory that typical absence seizures are underpinned by a widespread loss of GABAergic function in thalamocortical circuits and illustrate a vital role for astrocytes in the pathology of typical absence epilepsy. Moreover, they explain why pharmacological agents that enhance GABA receptor function can initiate or exacerbate absence seizures and suggest a potential therapeutic role for inverse agonists at eGABAARs in absence epilepsy.