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Balloon cells (BCs) are the pathologic hallmark of focal cortical dysplasia type IIB, a common cause of pharmacoresistent epilepsy. Expression of markers of cell immaturity and of the proliferation marker minichromosome maintenance protein 2 (mcm2) have been previously shown in BCs, suggesting that these cells might represent a pool of less-differentiated cells licensed for replication. An alternative explanation is that these cells are the remnants of early cortical plate cells that have failed to differentiate or to be eliminated during development and are arrested in the cell cycle, a hypothesis that this study aims to explore. Using immunohistochemical methods and semiquantitative analysis in 19 cases of focal cortical dysplasia (ages 1-81 years), we studied the expression of cell cycle proteins important either in regulating progression through the G1 phase or inducing cell arrest and promoting premature senescence. Only a small fraction of BCs expressed geminin, suggesting that few BCs enter the S phase or complete the cell cycle. Variable expression of nonphosphorylated retinoblastoma protein (Rb), cdk4, and p53 was noted in BCs. Cyclin E, D1, cdk2, phosphorylated Rb (795 and 807/811), and checkpoint 2 expression levels were low in BCs. These findings suggest early rather than late G1 arrest. Cell senescence could be induced by an undefined cerebral insult during development or alternatively represent a physiologic replicative senescence. These findings also suggest that dysregulation of cell cycle pathways may occur in focal cortical dysplasia, which opens further areas for exploration as potential new treatment avenues.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neuropathol Exp Neurol

Publication Date





1045 - 1055


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Brain, Cell Cycle Proteins, Child, Child, Preschool, G1 Phase, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Infant, Malformations of Cortical Development, Middle Aged, Neurons