Brain inflammation is a major factor in epilepsy, but the impact of specific inflammatory mediators on neuronal excitability is incompletely understood. Using models of acute and chronic seizures in C57BL/6 mice, we discovered a proconvulsant pathway involving high-mobility group box-1 (HMGB1) release from neurons and glia and its interaction with Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), a key receptor of innate immunity. Antagonists of HMGB1 and TLR4 retard seizure precipitation and decrease acute and chronic seizure recurrence. TLR4-defective C3H/HeJ mice are resistant to kainate-induced seizures. The proconvulsant effects of HMGB1, like those of interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta), are partly mediated by ifenprodil-sensitive N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. Increased expression of HMGB1 and TLR4 in human epileptogenic tissue, like that observed in the mouse model of chronic seizures, suggests a role for the HMGB1-TLR4 axis in human epilepsy. Thus, HMGB1-TLR4 signaling may contribute to generating and perpetuating seizures in humans and might be targeted to attain anticonvulsant effects in epilepsies that are currently resistant to drugs.
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