Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Neurology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, United States; Vanderbilt Brain Institute, Vanderbilt University, United States; Department of Pharmacology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, United States. Electronic address: [Email]
Astrocytes serve many functions in the human brain, many of which focus on maintenance of homeostasis. Astrocyte dysfunction in Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) has long been appreciated with activation of the mTORC1 signaling pathway resulting in gliosis and possibly contributing to the very frequent phenotype of epilepsy. We hypothesized that aberrant expression of the astrocyte protein aquaporin-4 (AQP4) may be present in TSC and contribute to disease pathology. Characterization of AQP4 expression in epileptic cortex from TSC patients demonstrated a diffuse increase in AQP4. To determine if this was due to exposure to seizures, we examined Aqp4 expression in mouse models of TSC in which Tsc1 or Tsc2 inactivation was targeted to astrocytes or glial progenitors, respectively. Loss of either Tsc1 or Tsc2 from astrocytes resulted in a marked increase in Aqp4 expression which was sensitive to mTORC1 inhibition with rapamycin. Our findings in both TSC epileptogenic cortex and in a variety of astrocyte culture models demonstrate for the first time that AQP4 expression is dysregulated in TSC. The extent to which AQP4 contributes to epilepsy in TSC is not known, though the similarities in AQP4 expression between TSC and temporal lobe epilepsy supports further studies targeting AQP4 in TSC.