We have previously found that the transcription factor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) contributes to the mechanism of action of the ketogenic diet (KD), an established treatment for pediatric refractory epilepsy. We have found that the KD increases brain PPARγ and that inhibition or genetic loss of PPARγ prevents the antiseizure effects of the KD on (1) acutely induced seizures in nonepileptic mice and (2) spontaneous recurrent seizures in epileptic mice. Here, we tested the hypothesis that adjuvant treatment of KD-treated mice with a PPARγ agonist, pioglitazone, would result in an additive effect.


Acute seizures were induced in three groups of C57Bl/6 mice by inhalation exposure to flurothyl gas. In Group 1, mice were weaned onto either a standard diet or KD comprised of a fat:carbohydrate/protein ratio of either 6:1, 3:1, or 1:1 for 2 weeks. In Group 2, vehicle or pioglitazone (0.1, 1, 10, 80 mg/kg) was administered 4 h prior to flurothyl exposure. In Group 3, vehicle or increasing doses of pioglitazone were administered to KD-treated mice 4 h prior to flurothyl exposure. Latency times to clonic seizures and generalized tonic–clonic (GTC) seizures were recorded, and isobolographic analysis was used to determine combinatorial interactions.


Neither KD treatment nor pioglitazone alone or in combination affected clonic seizures. However, the latency to GTC seizures was dose-dependently and significantly increased by both KD (~57%, p < 0.05) and pioglitazone (~28%, p < 0.05). Coadministration of an ineffective 1:1 KD and pioglitazone resulted in ~47–55% (p < 0.05) increase in latency to GTC. Isobolographic analysis indicated a synergistic interaction of the KD and pioglitazone.


These results suggest coadministration may enable reduction of the KD ratio without loss of seizure protection. Such adjuvant treatment could improve quality of life and limit adverse effects of a classic KD or high-dose pioglitazone.



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