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Neuronal heterotopia are seen in various pathologies and are associated with intractable epilepsy. We examined brain tissue from four children with subcortical or periventricular nodular heterotopia of different aetiologies: one with severe epilepsy following focal brain trauma at 17 weeks gestation, one with hemimegalencephaly and intractable epilepsy, one with focal cortical dysplasia and intractable epilepsy, and one dysmorphic term infant with associated hydrocephalus and polymicrogyria. The connectivity of nodules was investigated using histological and carbocyanine dye (DiI) tracing techniques. DiI crystal placement adjacent to heterotopic nodules revealed numerous DiI-labelled fibres within a 2-3 mm radius of the crystals. Although we observed labelled fibres closely surrounding nodules, the majority did not penetrate them. Placement of DiI crystals within nodules also identified a limited number of projections out of the nodules and in one case there was evidence for connectivity between adjacent nodules. The cellular and neurochemical composition of nodules was also examined using immunohistochemistry for calretinin and neuropeptide Y (NPY), which are normally expressed in GABAergic cortical interneurons. Within heterotopic nodules from all cases, numerous calretinin-positive neurons were identified, along with a few cell bodies and many processes positive for NPY. Calretinin-positive neurons within nodules were less morphologically complex than those in the cortex, which may reflect incomplete differentiation into an inhibitory neuronal phenotype. There were also abnormal clusters of calretinin-positive cells in the overlying cortical plate, indicating that the migratory defect which produces heterotopic nodules also affects development of the cortex itself. Thus, heterotopic nodules consisting of multiple neuronal cell types are associated with malformation in the overlying cortical plate, and have limited connectivity with other brain regions. This abnormal development of connectivity may affect neuronal maturation and consequently the balance of excitation and inhibition in neuronal circuits, leading to their epileptogenic potential.


Journal article



Publication Date



122 ( Pt 2)


219 - 238


Brain Chemistry, Calbindin 2, Carbocyanines, Cell Size, Cerebral Cortex, Child, Choristoma, Epilepsy, Fatal Outcome, Female, Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Fluorescent Dyes, Humans, Infant, Newborn, Interneurons, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Neuropeptide Y, S100 Calcium Binding Protein G, gamma-Aminobutyric Acid