Epilepsy: Mitochondrial Connections to the ‘Sacred’ Disease

Mitochondrion. 2023 Aug 13:S1567-7249(23)00070-3. doi: 10.1016/j.mito.2023.08.002. Online ahead of print.


Over 65 million people suffer from recurrent, unprovoked seizures. The lack of validated biomarkers specific for myriad forms of epilepsy makes diagnosis challenging. Diagnosis and monitoring of childhood epilepsy add to the need for non-invasive biomarkers, especially when evaluating antiseizure medications. Although underlying mechanisms of epileptogenesis are not fully understood, evidence for mitochondrial involvement is substantial. Seizures affect 35%-60% of patients diagnosed with mitochondrial diseases. Mitochondrial dysfunction is pathophysiological in various epilepsies, including those of non-mitochondrial origin. Decreased ATP production caused by malfunctioning brain cell mitochondria leads to altered neuronal bioenergetics, metabolism and neurological complications, including seizures. Iron-dependent lipid peroxidation initiates ferroptosis, a cell death pathway that aligns with altered mitochondrial bioenergetics, metabolism and morphology found in neurodegenerative diseases (NDDs). Studies in mouse genetic models with seizure phenotypes where the function of an essential selenoprotein (GPX4) is targeted suggest roles for ferroptosis in epilepsy. GPX4 is pivotal in NDDs, where selenium protects interneurons from ferroptosis. Selenium is an essential central nervous system micronutrient and trace element. Low serum concentrations of selenium and other trace elements and minerals, including iron, are noted in diagnosing childhood epilepsy. Selenium supplements alleviate intractable seizures in children with reduced GPX activity. Copper and cuproptosis, like iron and ferroptosis, link to mitochondria and NDDs. Connecting these mechanistic pathways to selenoproteins provides new insights into treating seizures, pointing to using medicines including prodrugs of lipoic acid to treat epilepsy and to potential alternative therapeutic approaches including transcranial magnetic stimulation (transcranial), photobiomodulation and vagus nerve stimulation.

PMID:37582467 | DOI:10.1016/j.mito.2023.08.002