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1.  Enhanced Neurogenesis and Cell Migration following Focal Ischemia and Peripheral Stimulation in Mice 
Developmental neurobiology  2008;68(13):1474-1486.
Peripheral stimulation and physical therapy can promote neurovascular plasticity and functional recovery after CNS disorders such as ischemic stroke. Using a rodent model of whisker-barrel cortex stroke, we have previously demonstrated that whisker activity promotes angiogenesis in the penumbra of the ischemic barrel cortex. This study explored the potential of increased peripheral activity to promote neurogenesis and neural progenitor migration toward the ischemic barrel cortex.
Three days after focal barrel cortex ischemia in adult mice, whiskers were manually stimulated (15 min × 3 times/day) to enhance afferent signals to the ischemic barrel cortex. 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine (BrdU, i.p.) was administered once daily to label newborn cells. At 14 days after stroke, whisker stimulation significantly increased vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and stromal derived factor-1 (SDF-1) expression in the penumbra. The whisker stimulation animals showed increased doublecortin (DCX) positive and DCX/BrdU-positive cells in the ipsilateral corpus of the white matter but no increase in BrdU-positive cells in the subventricular zone, suggesting a selective effect on neuroblast migration. Neurogenesis indicated by neuronal nuclear protein (NeuN) and BrdU double staining was also enhanced by whisker stimulation in the penumbra at 30 days after stroke. Local cerebral blood flow was better recovered in mice that received whisker stimulation. It is suggested that the enriched microenvironment created by specific peripheral stimulation increases regenerative responses in the post-ischemic brain and may benefit long-term functional recovery from ischemic stroke.
PMCID: PMC2756802  PMID: 18777565
Neurogenesis; Ischemic stroke; Barrel cortex; Whisker stimulation; Cell migration
2.  VEGF enhances angiogenesis and promotes blood-brain barrier leakage in the ischemic brain 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2000;106(7):829-838.
VEGF is a secreted mitogen associated with angiogenesis and is also a potent vascular permeability factor. The biological role of VEGF in the ischemic brain remains unknown. This study was undertaken to investigate whether VEGF enhances cerebral microvascular perfusion and increases blood-brain barrier (BBB) leakage in the ischemic brain. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), three-dimensional laser-scanning confocal microscope, and functional neurological tests, we measured the effects of administrating recombinant human VEGF165 (rhVEGF165) on angiogenesis, functional neurological outcome, and BBB leakage in a rat model of focal cerebral embolic ischemia. Late (48 hours) administration of rhVEGF165 to the ischemic rats enhanced angiogenesis in the ischemic penumbra and significantly improved neurological recovery. However, early postischemic (1 hour) administration of rhVEGF165 to ischemic rats significantly increased BBB leakage, hemorrhagic transformation, and ischemic lesions. Administration of rhVEGF165 to ischemic rats did not change BBB leakage and cerebral plasma perfusion in the contralateral hemisphere. Our results indicate that VEGF can markedly enhance angiogenesis in the ischemic brain and reduce neurological deficits during stroke recovery and that inhibition of VEGF at the acute stage of stroke may reduce the BBB permeability and the risk of hemorrhagic transformation after focal cerebral ischemia.
PMCID: PMC517814  PMID: 11018070
3.  Delayed VEGF Treatment Enhances Angiogenesis and Recovery After Neonatal Focal Rodent Stroke 
Translational stroke research  2013;4(2):189-200.
Neonatal stroke occurs in one in 4,000 live births and leads to significant morbidity and mortality. Approximately two thirds of the survivors have long-term sequelae including seizures and neurological deficits. However, the pathophysiological mechanisms of recovery after neonatal stroke are not clearly understood, and preventive measures and treatments are nonexistent in the clinical setting. In this study, we investigated the effect of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) treatment on histological recovery and angiogenic response to the developing brain after an ischemic insult. Ten-day-old Sprague–Dawley rats underwent right middle cerebral arterial occlusion (MCAO) for 1.5 h. Diffusion-weighted MRI during occlusion confirmed focal ischemia that was then followed by reperfusion. On group of animals received 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine and sacrificed at postnatal day (P)18 or P25. A second group of animals was treated with VEGF (1.5 µg/kg, icv) or phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) at P18 and perfusion fixed at P25. Based on Nissl and iron staining, a single VEGF injection reduced the injury score, compared to the animals that underwent MCAO and PBS injection. Furthermore, neurodegeneration represented by neuronal nuclei staining was markedly diminished. In addition, animals treated with VEGF revealed a positive trend in endothelial proliferation and a significant increase in total vessel volume in the peri-infarct region of the caudate. The number of Iba1-positive microglial cells was significantly reduced after a single VEGF injection, and myelin basic protein expression was enhanced in the caudate after ischemia without an effect of VEGF treatment. In conclusion, delayed treatment with VEGF ameliorates injury, promotes endothelial cell proliferation, and increases total vascular volume following neonatal stroke. These results suggest that VEGF has a neuroprotective effect, in part by enhancing endogenous angiogenesis. These data contribute to a better understanding of neonatal stroke.
PMCID: PMC3733573  PMID: 23926451
VEGF; Neuroprotection; Angiogenesis; Neonatal stroke
4.  Vascular endothelial growth factor regulates adult hippocampal cell proliferation through MEK/ERK- and PI3K/Akt-dependent signaling 
Neuropharmacology  2012;63(4):642-652.
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a hypoxia-induced angiogenic protein that exhibits a broad range of neurotrophic and neuroprotective effects in the central nervous system. Given that neurogenesis occurs in close proximity to blood vessels, increasing evidence has suggested that VEGF may constitute an important link between neurogenesis and angiogenesis. Although it is known that VEGF can directly stimulate the proliferation of neuronal progenitors, the underlying signaling pathways responsible in this process are not fully understood. Thus, in the present study, we set out to examine the requirement of two downstream targets of the VEGF/Flk-1 signaling network, the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathways, in producing the mitogenic effects of VEGF. Both in vivo and in vitro experiments showed that a single treatment of VEGF activated Erk1/2 and Akt signaling pathways in the adult rat hippocampus and in cultured hippocampal neuronal progenitor cells. This effect was blocked with the VEGF/Flk-1 inhibitor SU5416. Importantly, microinfusion of VEGF into the rat brain also induced pCREB expression in the dentate gyrus and increased the number of BrdU-labeled cells in the dentate subgranular zone. Double immunofluorescence labeling revealed that a large proportion of BrdU-labeled cells expressed activated forms of Flk-1, Erk1/2, and Akt. Interestingly, treatment with the SSRI fluoxetine, which is well known to stimulate neurogenesis and VEGF-signaling, also produced a similar expression pattern of Erk1/2 and Akt in proliferating cells. Finally, pharmacological experiments showed that administration of inhibitors of either MAPK/ERK (U0126) or PI3K (LY294002) blocked VEGF-stimulation of hippocampal cell proliferation in vivo and in vitro. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that the proliferative actions of VEGF require activation of both ERK and Akt signaling cascades and that these intracellular pathways are stimulated almost exclusively in actively proliferating neuronal progenitor cells of the adult hippocampus.
PMCID: PMC3392414  PMID: 22580375
VEGF; neurotrophic factors; MEK/ERK; PI3K/AKT; fluoxetine; neurogenesis; hippocampus
5.  Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase Regulates Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Expression and Neurogenesis after Stroke in Mice 
Here, we investigate the effects of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) on angiogenesis, neurogenesis, neurotrophic factor expression, and neurological functional outcome after stroke. Wild-type and eNOS knock-out (eNOS−/−) mice were subjected to permanent occlusion of the right middle cerebral artery. eNOS−/− mice exhibited more severe neurological functional deficit after stroke than wild-type mice. Decreased subventricular zone (SVZ) progenitor cell proliferation and migration, measured using bromodeoxyuridine, Ki-67, nestin, and doublecortin immunostaining in the ischemic brain, and decreased angiogenesis, as demonstrated by reduced endothelial cell proliferation, vessel perimeter, and vascular density in the ischemic border, were evident in eNOS−/− mice compared with wild-type mice. eNOS-deficient mice also exhibited a reduced response to vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-induced angiogenesis in a corneal assay. ELISAs showed that eNOS−/− mice have decreased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression but not VEGF and basic fibroblast growth factor in the ischemic brain compared with wild-type mice. In addition, cultured SVZ neurosphere formation, proliferation, telomerase activity, and neurite outgrowth but not cell viability from eNOS−/− mice were significantly reduced compared with wild-type mice. BDNF treatment of SVZ cells derived from eNOS−/− mice restored the decreased neurosphere formation, proliferation, neurite outgrowth, and telomerase activity in cultured eNOS−/− SVZ neurospheres. SVZ explant cell migration also was significantly decreased in eNOS−/− mice compared with wild-type mice. These data indicate that eNOS is not only a downstream mediator for VEGF and angiogenesis but also regulates BDNF expression in the ischemic brain and influences progenitor cell proliferation, neuronal migration, and neurite outgrowth and affects functional recovery after stroke.
PMCID: PMC2791344  PMID: 15745963
eNOS; angiogenesis; neurogenesis; BDNF; neural progenitor cells; focal cerebral ischemia
6.  Forebrain Neurogenesis after Focal Ischemic and Traumatic Brain Injury 
Neurobiology of disease  2009;37(2):267-274.
Neural stem cells persist in the adult mammalian forebrain and are a potential source of neurons for repair after brain injury. The two main areas of persistent neurogenesis, the subventricular zone (SVZ)-olfactory bulb pathway and hippocampal dentate gyrus, are stimulated by brain insults such as stroke or trauma. Here we focus on the effects of focal cerebral ischemia on SVZ neural progenitor cells in experimental stroke, and the influence of mechanical injury on adult hippocampal neurogenesis in models of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Stroke potently stimulates forebrain SVZ cell proliferation and neurogenesis. SVZ neuroblasts are induced to migrate to the injured striatum, and to a lesser extent to the peri-infarct cortex. Controversy exists as to the types of neurons that are generated in the injured striatum, and whether adult-born neurons contribute to functional restoration remains uncertain. Advances in understanding the regulation of SVZ neurogenesis in general, and stroke-induced neurogenesis in particular, may lead to improved integration and survival of adult-born neurons at sites of injury. Dentate gyrus cell proliferation and neurogenesis similarly increase after experimental TBI. However, pre-existing neuroblasts in the dentate gyrus are vulnerable to traumatic insults, which appear to stimulate neural stem cells in the SGZ to proliferate and replace them, leading to increased numbers of new granule cells. Interventions that stimulate hippocampal neurogenesis appear to improve cognitive recovery after experimental TBI. Transgenic methods to conditionally label or ablate neural stem cells are beginning to further address critical questions regarding underlying mechanisms and function significance of neurogenesis after stroke or TBI. Future therapies should be aimed at directing appropriate neuronal replacement after ischemic or traumatic injury while suppressing aberrant integration that may contribute to co-morbidities such as epilepsy or cognitive impairment.
PMCID: PMC2864918  PMID: 19909815
7.  Hemopexin induces neuroprotection in the rat subjected to focal cerebral ischemia 
BMC Neuroscience  2013;14:58.
The plasma protein hemopexin (HPX) exhibits the highest binding affinity to free heme. In vitro experiments and gene-knock out technique have suggested that HPX may have a neuroprotective effect. However, the expression of HPX in the brain was not well elucidated and its expression after cerebral ischemia-reperfusion injury was also poorly studied. Furthermore, no in vivo data were available on the effect of HPX given centrally on the prognosis of focal cerebral ischemia.
In the present study, we systematically investigated expression of HPX in normal rat brain by immunofluorescent staining. The results showed that HPX was mainly expressed in vascular system and neurons, as well as in a small portion of astrocytes adjacent to the vessels in normal rat brain. Further, we determined the role of HPX in the process of focal cerebral ischemic injury and explored the effects of HPX treatment in a rat model of transient focal cerebral ischemia. After 2 h’ middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) followed by 24 h’ reperfusion, the expression of HPX was increased in the neurons and astrocytes in the penumbra area, as demonstrated by immunohistochemistry and Western blot techniques. Intracerebroventricular injection of HPX at the onset of reperfusion dose-dependently reduced the infarct volumes and improved measurements of neurological function of the rat subjected to transient focal cerebral ischemia. The neuroprotective effects of HPX sustained for up to 7 days after experiments.
Our study provides a new insight into the potential neuroprotective role of HPX as a contributing factor of endogenous protective mechanisms against focal cerebral ischemia injury, and HPX might be developed as a potential agent for treatment of ischemic stroke.
PMCID: PMC3694464  PMID: 23758755
Hemopexin; Cerebral ischemia; Neuroprotection; Intracerebroventricular injection; Endogenous protection
8.  HDAC inhibitors mitigate ischemia-induced oligodendrocyte damage: potential roles of oligodendrogenesis, VEGF, and anti-inflammation 
White matter injury is an important component of stroke pathology, but its pathophysiology and potential treatment remain relatively elusive and underexplored. We previously reported that after permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion (pMCAO), sodium butyrate (SB) and trichostatin A (TSA) induced neurogenesis via histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibition in multiple ischemic brain regions in rats; these effects-which depended on activation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)-TrkB signaling-contributed to behavioral improvement. The present study found that SB or TSA robustly protected against ischemia-induced loss of oligodendrocytes detected by confocal microscopy of myelin basic protein (MBP) immunostaining in the ipsilateral subventricular zone (SVZ), striatum, corpus callosum, and frontal cortex seven days post-pMCAO. Co-localization of 5-bromo-2’-deoxyuridine (BrdU)+ and MBP+ cells after SB treatment suggested the occurrence of oligodendrogenesis. SB also strongly upregulated vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which plays a major role in neurogenesis, angiogenesis, and functional recovery after stroke. These SB-induced effects were markedly suppressed by blocking the TrkB signaling pathway with K252a. pMCAO-induced activation of microglia (OX42+) and macrophages/monocytes (ED1+)-which has been linked to white matter injury-was robustly suppressed by SB in a K252a-sensitive manner. In addition, SB treatment largely blocked caspase-3+ and OX42+ cells in ipsilateral brain regions. Our results suggest that HDAC inhibitor-mediated protection against ischemia-induced oligodendrocyte loss may involve multiple mechanisms including oligodendrogenesis, VEGF upregulation, anti-inflammation, and caspase-3 downregulation. Taken together, the results suggest that post-insult treatment with HDAC inhibitors is a rational strategy to mitigate white matter injury following ischemic stroke.
PMCID: PMC4058304  PMID: 24936215
Anti-inflammation; cerebral ischemia; HDAC inhibitors; myelin basic protein (MBP); oligodendrocytes; vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)
9.  Sublethal Transient Global Ischemia Stimulates Migration of Neuroblasts and Neurogenesis in Mice 
Translational stroke research  2010;1(3):184-196.
Increasing evidence has shown the potential of neuronal plasticity in adult brain after injury. Neural proliferation can be triggered by a focal sublethal ischemic preconditioning event; whether mild global ischemia could cause neurogenesis has been not clear. The present study investigated stimulating effects of sublethal transient global ischemia (TGI) on endogenous neurogenesis and neuroblast migration in the subventricular zone (SVZ), dentate gyrus, and peri-infarct areas of the adult cortex. Adult mice of 129S2/Sv strain were subjected to 8-min bilateral common carotid artery ligation followed by 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine (BrdU; 50 mg/kg, intraperitoneal) administration every day until being sacrificed at 1–21 days after reperfusion. The mild TGI did not induce neuronal cell death for up to 7 days after TGI, as evidenced by negative terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling staining among NeuN-positive cells in the hippocampus and neocortex. In TGI animals, BrdU staining revealed enhanced proliferation of neuroblasts and their migration track from the SVZ into the striatum and neocortex. In the corpus callosum, there were more BrdU-positive cells in the TGI group in the first 2 days. Increasing numbers of BrdU-positive cells were seen 7–21 days later in the striatum and cortex of TGI mice. The cortex of TGI animals showed increased expression of erythropoietin, erythropoietin receptor, fibroblast growth factor 2, vascular endothelial growth factor, and phosphorylated Jun N-terminal kinase; the expression was peaked 2 to 3 days after reperfusion. BrdU and NeuN double staining in the dentate gyrus, striatum, and cortex implied increased neurogenesis induced by the TGI preconditioning. Doublecortin (DCX)-positive cells increased in the cortex of TGI mice, localized to cortical layers II, III, and V, and many stained positive for the mature neuronal markers NeuN, neurofilament, N-methyl-d-aspartic acid receptor subunit gene NR1, or the gamma-aminobutyric-acid-synthesizing enzyme glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD67). The atypical localization of DCX-positive cells and the colabeling with mature neuronal markers suggested that, in addition to indentifying migrating neuroblasts, DCX might also be a stress marker in the cortex. It is suggested that the sublethal TGI-induced regenerative responses may contribute to the beneficial effects of ischemic preconditioning.
PMCID: PMC3142584  PMID: 21792374
Transient global ischemia; Neuroblasts; Neurogenesis; Cell migration; Doublecortin (DCX); Subventricular zone (SVZ)
10.  Are bone marrow regenerative cells ideal seed cells for the treatment of cerebral ischemia?★ 
Neural Regeneration Research  2013;8(13):1201-1209.
Bone marrow cells for the treatment of ischemic brain injury may depend on the secretion of a large number of neurotrophic factors. Bone marrow regenerative cells are capable of increasing the secretion of neurotrophic factors. In this study, after tail vein injection of 5-fluorouracil for 7 days, bone marrow cells and bone marrow regenerative cells were isolated from the tibias and femurs of rats, and then administered intravenously via the tail vein after focal cerebral ischemia. Immunohistological staining and reverse transcription-PCR detection showed that transplanted bone marrow cells and bone marrow regenerative cells could migrate and survive in the ischemic regions, such as the cortical and striatal infarction zone. These cells promote vascular endothelial cell growth factor mRNA expression in the ischemic marginal zone surrounding the ischemic penumbra of the cortical and striatal infarction zone, and have great advantages in promoting the recovery of neurological function, reducing infarct size and promoting angiogenesis. Bone marrow regenerative cells exhibited stronger neuroprotective effects than bone marrow cells. Our experimental findings indicate that bone marrow regenerative cells are preferable over bone marrow cells for cell therapy for neural regeneration after cerebral ischemia. Their neuroprotective effect is largely due to their ability to induce the secretion of factors that promote vascular regeneration, such as vascular endothelial growth factor.
PMCID: PMC4107607  PMID: 25206414
neural regeneration; brain injury; cerebral ischemia; seed cells; bone marrow; transplantation; bone marrow cells; bone marrow regenerative cells; vascular regeneration factor; brain; neuroregeneration
11.  Vascular endothelial growth factor increases neurogenesis after traumatic brain injury 
Activation of endogenous stem cells has been proposed as a novel form of therapy in a variety of neurologic disorders including traumatic brain injury (TBI). Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is expressed in the brain after TBI and serves as a potent activator of angiogenesis and neurogenesis. In this study, we infused exogenous VEGF into the lateral ventricles of mice for 7 days after TBI using mini-osmotic pumps to evaluate the effects on recovery and functional outcome. The results of our study show that VEGF significantly increases the number of proliferating cells in the subventricular zone and in the perilesion cortex. Fate analysis showed that most newborn cells differentiated into astrocytes and oligodendroglia and only a few cells differentiated into neurons. Functional outcome was significantly better in mice treated with VEGF compared with vehicle-treated animals after TBI. Injury size was significantly smaller at 90 days after TBI in VEGF-treated animals, suggesting additional neuroprotective effects of VEGF. In conclusion, VEGF significantly augments neurogenesis and angiogenesis and reduces lesion volumes after TBI. These changes are associated with significant improvement in recovery rates and functional outcome.
PMCID: PMC2949187  PMID: 20068579
angiogenesis; neurogenesis; neuroprotection; traumatic brain injury; vascular endothelial growth factor
12.  Progesterone is neuroprotective against ischemic brain injury through its effects on the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway 
Neuroscience  2012;210:442-450.
We tested the hypothesis that the phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K/Akt) pathway mediates some of the neuroprotective effects of progesterone (PROG) after ischemic stroke. We examined whether PROG acting through the PI3K/Akt pathway could affect the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Rats underwent permanent focal cerebral ischemia (pMCAO) by electro-coagulation and received intraperitoneal injections of PROG (8mg/kg) or vehicle at 1h post-occlusion and subcutaneous injections at 6, 24, and 48h. PAkt/Akt levels, apoptosis and apoptosis-related proteins (pBAD, BAD, caspase-3, and cleaved caspase-3) were analyzed by TUNEL assays, Western blotting and immunohistochemistry at 24h post-pMCAO. VEGF and BDNF were analyzed at 24, 72h and 14 days post-pMCAO with Western blots. Following pMCAO, PROG treatment significantly (p<0.05) reduced ischemic lesion size and edema. Treatment with PROG significantly (p<0.05) decreased VEGF at 24 and 72h but increased VEGF expression 14d after injury. The treatment also increased BDNF, and attenuated apoptosis by increasing Akt phosphorylation compared to vehicle-alone. The selective PI3K inhibitor Wortmannin compromised PROG-induced neuroprotective effects and reduced the elevation of pAkt levels in the ischemic penumbra. Our findings lead us to suggest that the PI3K/Akt pathway can play a role in mediating the neuroprotective effects of PROG after stroke by altering the expression of trophic factors in the brain.
PMCID: PMC3358507  PMID: 22450229
apoptosis; growth factors; ischemic stroke; neuroprotection; phosphoinositide-3-kinase/Akt pathway; progesterone
13.  WIN55,212-2 protects oligodendrocyte precursor cells in stroke penumbra following permanent focal cerebral ischemia in rats 
Acta Pharmacologica Sinica  2012;34(1):119-128.
To explore whether the synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist WIN55,212-2 could protect oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) in stroke penumbra, thereby providing neuroprotection following permanent focal cerebral ischemia in rats.
Adult male SD rats were subjected to permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion (p-MCAO). The animals were administered WIN55,212-2 at 2 h, and sacrificed at 24 h after the ischemic insult. The infarct volumes and brain swelling were assessed. The expression of cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) in the stroke penumbra was examined using Western blot assay. The pathological changes and proliferation of neural glial antigen 2-positive OPCs (NG2+ cells) in the stroke penumbra were studied using immunohistochemistry staining.
p-MCAO significantly increased the expression of CB1 within the stroke penumbra with the highest level appearing at 2 h following the ischemic insult. Administration of WIN55,212-2 (9 mg/kg, iv) significantly attenuated the brain swelling, and reduced the infarct volume as well as the number of tau-immunoreactive NG2+ cells (tau-1+/NG2+ cells) in the stroke penumbra. Moreover, WIN55,212-2 significantly promoted the proliferation of NG2+ cells in the stroke penumbra and in the ipsilateral subventricular zone at 24 h following the ischemic insult. Administration of the selective CB1 antagonist rimonabant (1 mg/kg, iv) partially blocked the effects caused by WIN55,212-2.
Tau-1 is expressed in NG2+ cells following permanent focal cerebral ischemic injury. Treatment with WIN55,212-2 reduces the number of tau-1+/NG2+ cells and promotes NG2+ cell proliferation in the stroke penumbra, which are mediated partially via CB1 and may contribute to its neuroprotective effects.
PMCID: PMC4086494  PMID: 23202804
stroke; permanent focal cerebral ischemia; penumbra; oligodendrocyte precursor cells; neural glial antigen 2 (NG2); tau-1; cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1); WIN55,212-2; rimonabant
14.  VEGF protein associates to neurons in remote regions following cortical infarct 
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is thought to contribute to both neuroprotection and angiogenesis after stroke. While increased expression of VEGF has been demonstrated in animal models after experimental ischemia, these studies have focused almost exclusively on the infarct and peri-infarct regions. The present study investigated the association of VEGF to neurons in remote cortical areas at three days after an infarct in primary motor cortex (M1). Although these remote areas are outside of the direct influence of the ischemic injury, remote plasticity has been implicated in recovery of function. For this study, intracortical microstimulation techniques identified primary and premotor cortical areas in a non-human primate. A focal ischemic infarct was induced in the M1 hand representation, and neurons and VEGF protein were identified using immunohistochemical procedures. Stereological techniques quantitatively assessed neuronal-VEGF association in the infarct and peri-infarct regions, M1 hindlimb, M1 orofacial, and ventral premotor hand representations, as well as non-motor control regions. The results indicate that VEGF protein significantly increased association to neurons in specific remote cortical areas outside of the infarct and peri-infarct regions. The increased association of VEGF to neurons was restricted to cortical areas that are functionally and/or behaviorally related to the area of infarct. There was no significant increase in M1 orofacial region or in non-motor control regions. We hypothesize that enhancement of neuronal VEGF in these functionally related remote cortical areas may be involved in recovery of function after stroke, through either neuroprotection or the induction of remote angiogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3245973  PMID: 16639424
VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor); neuron; stroke; focal cerebral ischemia; stereology; neuroprotection
15.  Electroacupuncture preconditioning reduces cerebral ischemic injury via BDNF and SDF-1α in mice 
This study was designed to determine if electroacupuncture (EA) preconditioning improves tissue outcome and functional outcome following experimentally induced cerebral ischemia in mice. In addition, we investigated whether the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and stromal cell derived factor-1α (SDF-1α) and infarct volume were related with improvement in neurological and motor function by interventions in this study.
After treatment with EA at the acupoints ‘Baihui (GV20)’ and ‘Dazhui (GV14)’ for 20 min, BDNF was assessed in the cortical tissues based on Western blot and the SDF-1α and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) levels in the plasma determined by ELISA. To assess the protective effects of EA against ischemic injury, the mice received once a day 20 min EA preconditioning for three days prior to the ischemic event. Focal cerebral ischemia was then induced by photothrombotic cortical ischemia. Infarct volumes, neurobehavioral deficit and motor deficit were evaluated 24 h after focal cerebral ischemia.
The expression of BDNF protein increased significantly from 6 h, reaching a plateau at 12 h after the end of EA treatment in the cerebral cortex. Furthermore, SDF-1α, not VEGF, increased singnificantly from 12 h to 48 h after EA stimulation in the plasma. Moreover, EA preconditioning reduced the infarct volume by 43.5% when compared to control mice at 24 h after photothrombotic cortical ischemia. Consistent with a smaller infarct size, EA preconditioning showed prominent improvement of neurological function and motor function such as vestibule-motor function, sensori-motor function and asymmetric forelimb use. The expression of BDNF colocalized within neurons and SDF-1α colocalized within the cerebral vascular endothelium was observed throughout the ischemic cortex by EA.
Pretreatment with EA increased the production of BDNF and SDF-1α, which elicited protective effects against focal cerebral ischemia. These results suggest a novel mechanism of EA pretreatment-induced tolerance against cerebral ischemic injury.
PMCID: PMC3562247  PMID: 23356671
Focal cerebral ischemia; Electroacupuncture; BDNF; SDF-1α; Preconditioning
16.  Electroacupuncture pretreatment attenuates cerebral ischemic injury through α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor-mediated inhibition of high-mobility group box 1 release in rats 
We have previously reported that electroacupuncture (EA) pretreatment induced tolerance against cerebral ischemic injury, but the mechanisms underlying this effect of EA are unknown. In this study, we assessed the effect of EA pretreatment on the expression of α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (α7nAChR), using the ischemia-reperfusion model of focal cerebral ischemia in rats. Further, we investigated the role of high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) in neuroprotection mediated by the α7nAChR and EA.
Rats were treated with EA at the acupoint "Baihui (GV 20)" 24 h before focal cerebral ischemia which was induced for 120 min by middle cerebral artery occlusion. Neurobehavioral scores, infarction volumes, neuronal apoptosis, and HMGB1 levels were evaluated after reperfusion. The α7nAChR agonist PHA-543613 and the antagonist α-bungarotoxin (α-BGT) were used to investigate the role of the α7nAChR in mediating neuroprotective effects. The roles of the α7nAChR and HMGB1 release in neuroprotection were further tested in neuronal cultures exposed to oxygen and glucose deprivation (OGD).
Our results showed that the expression of α7nAChR was significantly decreased after reperfusion. EA pretreatment prevented the reduction in neuronal expression of α7nAChR after reperfusion in the ischemic penumbra. Pretreatment with PHA-543613 afforded neuroprotective effects against ischemic damage. Moreover, EA pretreatment reduced infarct volume, improved neurological outcome, inhibited neuronal apoptosis and HMGB1 release following reperfusion, and the beneficial effects were attenuated by α-BGT. The HMGB1 levels in plasma and the penumbral brain tissue were correlated with the number of apoptotic neurons in the ischemic penumbra. Furthermore, OGD in cultured neurons triggered HMGB1 release into the culture medium, and this effect was efficiently suppressed by PHA-543,613. Pretreatment with α-BGT reversed the inhibitory effect of PHA-543,613 on HMGB1 release.
These data demonstrate that EA pretreatment strongly protects the brain against transient cerebral ischemic injury, and inhibits HMGB1 release through α7nAChR activation in rats. These findings suggest the novel potential for stroke interventions harnessing the anti-inflammatory effects of α7nAChR activation, through acupuncture or pharmacological strategies.
PMCID: PMC3297509  PMID: 22277256
α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor; Cerebral ischemia; Electroacupuncture; Pretreatment; High-mobility group box 1
17.  17β-Estradiol Attenuates Poststroke Depression and Increases Neurogenesis in Female Ovariectomized Rats 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:392434.
Studies have linked neurogenesis to the beneficial actions of specific antidepressants. However, whether 17β-estradiol (E2), an antidepressant, can ameliorate poststroke depression (PSD) and whether E2-mediated improvement of PSD is associated with neurogenesis are largely unexplored. In the present study, we found that depressive-like behaviors were observed at the first week after focal ischemic stroke in female ovariectomized (OVX) rats, as measured by sucrose preference and open field test, suggesting that focal cerebral ischemia could induce PSD. Three weeks after middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO), rats were treated with E2 for consecutive 14 days. We found that E2-treated rats had significantly improving ischemia-induced depression-like behaviors in the forced-swimming test and sucrose preference test, compared to vehicle-treated group. In addition, we also found that BrdU- and doublecortin (DCX)-positive cells in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus and the subventricular zone (SVZ) were significantly increased in ischemic rats after E2 treatment, compared to vehicle-treated group. Our data suggest that focal cerebral ischemia can induce PSD, and E2 can ameliorate PSD. In addition, newborn neurons in the hippocampus may play an important role in E2-mediated antidepressant like effect after ischemic stroke.
PMCID: PMC3838842  PMID: 24307996
18.  Mobilization of Endogenous Bone Marrow Derived Endothelial Progenitor Cells and Therapeutic Potential of Parathyroid Hormone after Ischemic Stroke in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87284.
Stroke is a major neurovascular disorder threatening human life and health. Very limited clinical treatments are currently available for stroke patients. Stem cell transplantation has shown promising potential as a regenerative treatment after ischemic stroke. The present investigation explores a new concept of mobilizing endogenous stem cells/progenitor cells from the bone marrow using a parathyroid hormone (PTH) therapy after ischemic stroke in adult mice. PTH 1-34 (80 µg/kg, i.p.) was administered 1 hour after focal ischemia and then daily for 6 consecutive days. After 6 days of PTH treatment, there was a significant increase in bone marrow derived CD-34/Fetal liver kinase-1 (Flk-1) positive endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) in the peripheral blood. PTH treatment significantly increased the expression of trophic/regenerative factors including VEGF, SDF-1, BDNF and Tie-1 in the brain peri-infarct region. Angiogenesis, assessed by co-labeled Glut-1 and BrdU vessels, was significantly increased in PTH-treated ischemic brain compared to vehicle controls. PTH treatment also promoted neuroblast migration from the subventricular zone (SVZ) and increased the number of newly formed neurons in the peri-infarct cortex. PTH-treated mice showed significantly better sensorimotor functional recovery compared to stroke controls. Our data suggests that PTH therapy improves endogenous repair mechanisms after ischemic stroke with functional benefits. Mobilizing endogenous bone marrow-derived stem cells/progenitor cells using PTH and other mobilizers appears an effective and feasible regenerative treatment after ischemic stroke.
PMCID: PMC3913619  PMID: 24503654
19.  TGFα Induces Angiogenesis and Neurogenesis Following Stroke 
Neuroscience  2009;163(1):233-243.
The cytokine transforming growth factor α (TGFα) has proangiogenic and proneurogenic effects and can potentially reduce infarct volumes. Therefore, we administered TGFα or vehicle directly into the area surrounding the infarct in female mice that received gender-mismatched bone marrow transplants from GFP-expressing males prior to undergoing permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion. Newborn cells were tracked with BrdU labeling and immunohistochemistry at 90 days after stroke onset. We also studied the ingress of bone marrow derived cells into the ischemic brain to determine whether such cells contribute to angiogenesis or neurogenesis. Infarct volumes were measured at 90 days post stroke. The results show that TGFα led to significant increments in the number of newborn neurons and glia in the ischemic hemisphere. TGFα also led to significant increments in the number of bone marrow derived cells entering into the ischemic hemisphere. Most of these cells did not label with BrdU and represented endothelial cells that incorporated into blood vessels in the infarct border zone. Our results also show that infarct size was significantly reduced in animals treated with TGFα compared with controls. These results suggest that TGFα can induce angiogenesis, neurogenesis and neuroprotection after stroke. At least part of the pro-angiogenic effect appears to be secondary to the incorporation of bone marrow derived endothelial cells into blood vessels in the infarct border zone.
PMCID: PMC2747305  PMID: 19481589
Stroke; Transforming Growth Factor Alpha; Neurogenesis; Angiogenesis
20.  Murine Neural Stem/Progenitor Cells Protect Neurons against Ischemia by HIF-1α–Regulated VEGF Signaling 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9767.
Focal cerebral ischemia following middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) stimulates a robust cytogenic response from the adult subventricular zone (SVZ) that includes massive proliferation of neural stem/progenitor cells (NSPCs) and cellular migration into the injury area. To begin to explore beneficial roles of NSPCs in this response, we investigated the ability of embryonic and postnatal NSPCs to promote neuronal survival under conditions of in vivo and in vitro ischemia. Intracerebral transplantation of NSPCs attenuated neuronal apoptosis in response to focal ischemia induced by transient MCAO, and prevented neuronal cell death of cortical neurons in response to oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD) in culture. NSPC-mediated neuroprotection was blocked by the pharmacological inhibitors of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), SU1498 and Flt-1Fc. Embryonic and postnatal NSPCs were both intrinsically resistant to brief OGD exposure, and constitutively expressed both hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) transcription factor and its downstream target, VEGF. Genomic deletion of HIF-1α by Cre-mediated excision of exon 2 in NSPC cultures resulted in >50% reduction of VEGF production and ablation of NSPC-mediated neuroprotection. These findings indicate that NSPCs promote neuronal survival under ischemic conditions via HIF-1α-VEGF signaling pathways and support a role for NSPCs in promotion of neuronal survival following stroke.
PMCID: PMC2842303  PMID: 20339541
21.  Coexpression of angiopoietin-1 with VEGF increases the structural integrity of the blood–brain barrier and reduces atrophy volume 
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-induced neovasculature is immature and leaky. We tested if coexpression of angiopoietin-1 (ANG1) with VEGF improves blood–brain barrier (BBB) integrity and VEGF neuroprotective and neurorestorative effects using a permanent distal middle cerebral artery occlusion (pMCAO) model. Adult CD-1 mice were injected with 2 × 109 virus genomes of adeno-associated viral vectors expressing VEGF (AAV-VEGF) or ANG1 (AAV-ANG1) individually or together in a 1:1 ratio into the ischemic penumbra 1 hour after pMCAO. AAV-LacZ was used as vector control. Samples were collected 3 weeks later. Compared with AAV-LacZ, coinjection of AAV-VEGF and AAV-ANG1 reduced atrophy volume (46%, P=0.004); injection of AAV-VEGF or AAV-ANG1 individually reduced atrophy volume slightly (36%, P=0.08 and 33%, P=0.09, respectively). Overexpression of VEGF reduced tight junction protein expression and increased Evans blue extravasation. Compared with VEGF expression alone, coexpression of ANG1 with VEGF resulted in upregulation of tight junction protein expression and reduction of Evans blue leakage (AAV-ANG1/AAV-VEGF: 1.4±0.3 versus AAV-VEGF: 2.8±0.7, P=0.001). Coinjection of AAV-VEGF and AAV-ANG1 induced a similar degree of angiogenesis as injection of AAV-VEGF alone (P=0.85). Thus, coexpression of ANG1 with VEGF improved BBB integrity and resulted in better neuroprotection compared with VEGF expression alone.
PMCID: PMC3323197  PMID: 21772310
adeno-associated viral vector; angiopoietin-1; middle cerebral artery occlusion; tight junction protein; vascular integrity; VEGF
22.  Effect of bone marrow stromal cell transplantation on neurologic function and expression of VEGF in rats with focal cerebral ischemia 
Molecular Medicine Reports  2014;10(5):2299-2305.
There is evidence that the transplantation of mesenchymal stem cells into rat models of cerebral ischemia reduces ischemic damage; however, the mechanism remains to be elucidated. The present study aimed to assess the effect of transplantation of human bone marrow stromal cells (hBMSCs) on neurologic function and the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in a rat model of focal cerebral ischemia. The left middle cerebral artery of adult Wistar rats was occluded for 90 min using a nylon thread, followed by reperfusion for 1 h. hBMSCs labeled with 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine (BrdU) were stereotaxically injected into the ischemic boundary zone. Behavioral analysis using the Neurological Severity Score (NSS) was conducted on days 1, 3, 7 and 28, and a histologic evaluation was performed simultaneously. VEGF was detected by immunofluorescence staining and western blot analysis. Fifty rats were divided equally into five groups: Normal control, sham-operated, operated (no transplantation), Dulbecco’s medium Eagle’s medium (DMEM)-injected (received only serum-free DMEM), and hBMSC-transplanted. The hBMSC-transplanted group showed significantly improved behavioral recovery compared with the operated and DMEM-transplanted groups on days 3, 7 and 28. Histological examination showed that transplanted cells migrated from the injection site into nearby areas including the cortex. Expression of VEGF was significantly greater in the hBMSC group compared with the other four groups on each assessment day. The expression of VEGF was found to be beneficial for functional recovery following cerebral ischemic injury and hBMSC transplantation stimulated the expression of VEGF. Transplantation of BMSCs may be a promising therapeutic strategy for treating cerebral infarction.
PMCID: PMC4214338  PMID: 25174606
bone marrow stromal cells; middle cerebral artery occlusion; vascular endothelial growth factor; stem cell therapy; neurological severity score
23.  Inhibition of Autophagy Contributes to Ischemic Postconditioning-Induced Neuroprotection against Focal Cerebral Ischemia in Rats 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e46092.
Ischemic postconditioning (IPOC), or relief of ischemia in a stuttered manner, has emerged as an innovative treatment strategy to reduce programmed cell death, attenuate ischemic injuries, and improve neurological outcomes. However, the mechanisms involved have not been completely elucidated. Recent studies indicate that autophagy is a type of programmed cell death that plays elusive roles in controlling neuronal damage and metabolic homeostasis. This study aims to determine the role of autophagy in IPOC-induced neuroprotection against focal cerebral ischemia in rats.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A focal cerebral ischemic model with permanent middle cerebral artery (MCA) occlusion plus transient common carotid artery (CCA) occlusion was established. The autophagosomes and the expressions of LC3/Beclin 1/p62 were evaluated for their contribution to the activation of autophagy. We found that autophagy was markedly induced with the upregulation of LC3/Beclin 1 and downregulation of p62 in the penumbra at various time intervals following ischemia. IPOC, performed at the onset of reperfusion, reduced infarct size, mitigated brain edema, inhibited the induction of LC3/Beclin 1 and reversed the reduction of p62 simultaneously. Rapamycin, an inducer of autophagy, partially reversed all the aforementioned effects induced by IPOC. Conversely, autophagy inhibitor 3-methyladenine (3-MA) attenuated the ischemic insults, inhibited the activation of autophagy, and elevated the expression of anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2, to an extent comparable to IPOC.
The present study suggests that inhibition of the autophagic pathway plays a key role in IPOC-induced neuroprotection against focal cerebral ischemia. Thus, pharmacological inhibition of autophagy may provide a novel therapeutic strategy for the treatment of stroke.
PMCID: PMC3461004  PMID: 23029398
24.  Factors Secreted by Endothelial Progenitor Cells Enhance Neurorepair Responses after Cerebral Ischemia in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73244.
Cell therapy with endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) has emerged as a promising strategy to regenerate the brain after stroke. Here, we aimed to investigate if treatment with EPCs or their secreted factors could potentiate angiogenesis and neurogenesis after permanent focal cerebral ischemia in a mouse model of ischemic stroke. BALB/C male mice were subjected to distal occlusion of the middle cerebral artery, and EPCs, cell-free conditioned media (CM) obtained from EPCs, or vehicle media were administered one day after ischemia. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed at baseline to confirm that the lesions were similar between groups. Immunohistochemical and histological evaluation of the brain was performed to evaluate angio-neurogenesis and neurological outcome at two weeks. CM contained growth factors, such as VEGF, FGF-b and PDGF-bb. A significant increase in capillary density was noted in the peri-infarct areas of EPC- and CM-treated animals. Bielschowsky’s staining revealed a significant increase in axonal rewiring in EPC-treated animals compared with shams, but not in CM-treated mice, in close proximity with DCX-positive migrating neuroblasts. At the functional level, post-ischemia forelimb strength was significantly improved in animals receiving EPCs or CM, but not in those receiving vehicle media. In conclusion, we demonstrate for the first time that the administration of EPC-secreted factors could become a safe and effective cell-free option to be considered in future therapeutic strategies for stroke.
PMCID: PMC3762828  PMID: 24023842
25.  Serum BDNF and VEGF levels are associated with Risk of Stroke and Vascular Brain Injury: Framingham Study 
Stroke; a journal of cerebral circulation  2013;44(10):10.1161/STROKEAHA.113.001447.
Background and Purpose
BDNF, a major neurotrophin and VEGF, an endothelial growth factor have a documented role in neurogenesis, angiogenesis and neuronal survival. In animal experiments they impact infarct size and functional motor recovery after an ischemic brain lesion. We sought to examine the association of serum BDNF and VEGF with the risk of clinical stroke or subclinical vascular brain injury in a community-based sample.
In 3440 stroke/TIA-free FHS participants (mean age 65±11yrs, 56%W), we related baseline BDNF and logVEGF to risk of incident stroke/TIA. In a subsample with brain MRI and with neuropsychological (NP) tests available (N=1863 and 2104, respectively; mean age 61±9yrs, 55%W, in each) we related baseline BDNF and logVEGF to log-white matter hyperintensity volume (lWMHV) on brain MRI, and to visuospatial memory and executive function tests.
During a median follow-up of 10 years, 193 participants experienced incident stroke/TIA. In multivariable analyses adjusted for age-, sex- and traditional stroke risk factors, lower BDNF and higher logVEGF levels were associated with an increased risk of incident stroke/TIA (HR comparing BDNF Q1 versus Q2–4:1.47, 95%CI:1.09–2.00, p=0.012; and HR/SD increase in logVEGF:1.21, 95%CI:1.04–1.40, p=0.012). Persons with higher BDNF levels had less lWMHV (β±SE=−0.05±0.02; p=0.025), and better visual memory (β±SE=0.18±0.07; p=0.005).
Lower serum BDNF and higher VEGF concentrations were associated with increased risk of incident stroke/TIA. Higher levels of BDNF were also associated with less white matter hyperintensity and better visual memory. Our findings suggest that circulating BDNF and VEGF levels modify risk of clinical and subclinical vascular brain injury.
PMCID: PMC3873715  PMID: 23929745
BDNF; VEGF; Risk; Stroke; Brain MRI; Subclinical

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