The hippocampal formation plays a central role in the development of temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), a disease characterized by recurrent, unprovoked epileptic discharges. TLE is a neurologic disorder characterized by acute long-lasting seizures (i.e., abnormal electrical activity in the brain) or seizures that occur in close proximity without recovery, typically after a brain injury or status epilepticus. After status epilepticus, epileptogenic hyperexcitability develops gradually over the following months to years, resulting in the emergence of chronic, recurrent seizures. Acting as a filter or gate, the hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG) normally prevents excessive excitation from propagating through the hippocampus, and is considered a critical region in the progression of epileptogenesis in pathological conditions. Importantly, lipid-derived endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids), which are produced on demand as retrograde messengers, are central regulators of neuronal activity in the DG circuit. In this review, we summarize recent findings concerning the role of the DG in controlling hyperexcitability and propose how DG regulation by cannabinoids (CBs) could provide avenues for therapeutic interventions. We also highlight possible pathways and manipulations that could be relevant for the control of hyperexcitation. The use of CB compounds to treat epilepsies is controversial, as anecdotal evidence is not always validated by clinical trials. Recent publications shed light on the importance of the DG as a region regulating incoming hippocampal excitability during epileptogenesis. We review recent findings concerning the modulation of the hippocampal DG circuitry by CBs and discuss putative underlying pathways. A better understanding of the mechanisms by which CBs exert their action during seizures may be useful to improve therapies.
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