Potential new roles for glycogen in epilepsy


Seizures often originate in epileptogenic foci. Between seizures (interictally), these foci and some of the surrounding tissue often show low signals with 18fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography (PET) in many epileptic patients, even when there are no radiologically detectable structural abnormalities. Low FDG-PET signals are thought to reflect glucose hypometabolism. Here, we review knowledge about metabolism of glucose and glycogen and oxidative stress in people with epilepsy and in acute and chronic rodent seizure models. Interictal brain glucose levels are normal and do not cause apparent glucose hypometabolism, which remains unexplained. During seizures, high amounts of fuel are needed to satisfy increased energy demands. Astrocytes consume glycogen as an additional emergency fuel to supplement glucose during high metabolic demand, such as during brain stimulation, stress, and seizures. In rodents, brain glycogen levels drop during induced seizures and increase to higher levels thereafter. Interictally, in people with epilepsy and in chronic epilepsy models, normal glucose but high glycogen levels have been found in the presumed brain areas involved in seizure generation. We present our new hypothesis that as an adaptive response to repeated episodes of high metabolic demand, high interictal glycogen levels in epileptogenic brain areas are used to support energy metabolism and potentially interictal neuronal activity. Glycogenolysis, which can be triggered by stress or oxidative stress, leads to decreased utilization of plasma glucose in epileptogenic brain areas, resulting in low FDG signals that are related to functional changes underlying seizure onset and propagation. This is (partially) reversible after successful surgery. Last, we propose that potential interictal glycogen depletion in epileptogenic and surrounding areas may cause energy shortages in astrocytes, which may impair potassium buffering and contribute to seizure generation. Based on these hypotheses, auxiliary fuels or treatments that support glycogen metabolism may be useful to treat epilepsy.