The distribution, morphology, synaptic coverage and postsynaptic targets of calbindin-containing interneurons and afferent pathways have been analyzed in the control and epileptic CA1 region of the human hippocampus. Numerous calbindin-positive interneurons are preserved even in the strongly sclerotic CA1 region. The morphology of individual cells is altered: the cell body and dendrites become spiny, the radially oriented dendrites disappear, and are replaced by a large number of curved, distorted dendrites. Even in the non-sclerotic epileptic samples, where pyramidal cells are present and calbindin-immunoreactive interneurons seem to be unchanged, some modifications could be observed at the electron microscopic level: they received more inhibitory synaptic input, and the calbindin-positive excitatory afferents - presumably derived from the CA1, the CA2 and/or the dentate gyrus - are sprouted. In the strongly sclerotic tissue, with the death of pyramidal cells, calbindin-positive terminals (belonging to interneurons and the remaining excitatory afferents) change their targets. Our data suggest that an intense synaptic reorganization takes place in the epileptic CA1 region, even in the non-sclerotic tissue, before the death of considerable numbers of pyramidal cells. Calbindin-positive interneurons participate in this reorganization: they show plastic changes in response to epilepsy. The enhanced inhibition of inhibitory interneurons may result in the disinhibition of pyramidal cells or in an abnormal synchrony in the output region of the hippocampus.
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