Traumatic brain injury (TBI) causes 10-20% of acquired epilepsy, which typically develops within 2 years post-injury with poorly understood mechanisms. We investigated the location, severity, evolution and persistence of blood-brain barrier (BBB) dysfunction and associated neuroinflammation after TBI, and their contribution to post-traumatic seizure susceptibility.
TBI was induced with lateral fluid-percussion in adult male Sprague-Dawley rats (6 sham, 12 TBI). Permeability of the BBB was assessed using T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with gadobutrol (Gd) contrast enhancement at 4 days, 2 weeks, 2 months, and 10 months post-injury and with intravenously administered fluorescein at 11 months post-TBI. Continuous (24/7) video-EEG monitoring was performed for 3 weeks at 11 months post-injury followed by the pentylenetetrazol (PTZ) seizure-susceptibility test. In the end, rats were perfused for histology to assess albumin extravasation, iron deposits, calcifications, reactive astrocytes, microglia and monocytes. To investigate the translational value of the data obtained, BBB dysfunction and neuroinflammation were investigated immunohistochemically in autopsy brain tissue from patients with TBI and PTE.
MRI indicated persistent Gd leakage in the impacted cortex and thalamus of variable severity in all rats with TBI which correlated with fluorescein extravasation. In the impacted cortex BBB dysfunction was evident from 4 days post-injury onwards to the end of the 10-months follow-up. In the ipsilateral thalamus, leakage was evident at 2 and 10 months post-injury. The greater the BBB leakage in the perilesional cortex at 10 months after the injury, the greater the expression of the endothelial cell antigen RECA-1 (r = 0.734, p < 0.01) and the activated macrophages/monocytes/microglia marker CD68 (r = 0.699, p < 0.05) at 11 months post-injury. Seven of the 12 rats with TBI showed increased seizure susceptibility in the PTZ-test. Unlike expected, we did not find any association between increased Gd-leakage or neuroinflammation with seizure susceptibility at 11 months post-TBI. Analysis of human autopsy tissue indicated that similar to the animal model, chronic BBB dysfunction was also evident in the perilesional cortex and thalamus of patients with PTE, characterized by presence of albumin, iron deposits and calcifications as well as markers of neuroinflammation, including reactive astrocytes, microglia and monocytes.
Rats and humans with TBI have long-lasting cortical BBB dysfunction and neuroinflammation. Focal Gd-enhancement matched with loci of neuroinflammation, particularly in the thalamus. Although BBB leakage did not associate with increased seizure susceptibility after TBI, our data suggest that treatments aimed to mitigate BBB damage and its secondary pathologies like chronic neuroinflammation, have a region-specific long-lasting therapeutic time window.

Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier Inc.