The authors investigated functional neuronal changes in experimental hydrocephalus using immunohistochemical techniques for glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) and two neuronal calcium-binding proteins: parvalbumin (PV) and calbindin D28K (CaBP).
Hydrocephalus was induced in 16 adult Wistar rats by intracisternal injection of a kaolin solution, which was confirmed microscopically via atlantooccipital dural puncture. Four control rats received the same volume of sterile saline. Immunohistochemical staining for GAD, PV, and CaBP and Nissl staining were performed at 1, 2, 3, and 4 weeks after the injection. Hydrocephalus occurred in 90% of kaolin-injected animals with various degrees of ventricular dilation. In the cerebral cortex, GAD-, PV-, and CaBP-immunoreactive (IR) interneurons initially lost their stained processes together with a concomitant loss of homogeneous neuropil staining, followed by the reduction of their total number. With progressive ventricular dilation, GAD- and PV-IR axon terminals on the cortical pyramidal cells disappeared, whereas the number of CaBP-IR pyramidal cells decreased, and ultimately in the most severe cases of hydrocephalus, GAD, PV, and CaBP immunoreactivity was almost entirely diminished. In the hippocampus, GAD-, PV-, and CaBP-IR interneurons demonstrated a reduction of their processes and terminals surrounding the pyramidal cells, with secondary reduction of CaBP-IR pyramidal and granular cells. On the other hand, Nissl staining revealed almost no morphological changes induced by ischemia or neuronal degeneration even in the most severe cases of hydrocephalus.
Hydrocephalus results in the progressive functional impairment of GAD-, PV-, and CaBP-IR neuronal systems in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus, often before there is evidence of morphological injury. The initial injury of cortical and hippocampal interneurons suggests that the functional deafferentation from intrinsic projection fibers may be the initial neuronal event in hydrocephalic brain injury. Although the mechanism of this impairment is still speculative, these findings emphasize the importance of investigating the neuronal pathophysiology in hydrocephalus.