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1.  Coupling of Neurogenesis and Angiogenesis After Ischemic Stroke 
Brain research  2015;1623:166-173.
Stroke is a leading cause of mortality and severe long-term disability worldwide. Development of effective treatment or new therapeutic strategies for ischemic stroke patients is therefore crucial. Ischemic stroke promotes neurogenesis by several growth factors including FGF-2, IGF-1, BDNF, VEGF and chemokines including SDF-1, MCP-1. Stroke-induced angiogenesis is similarly regulated by many factors most notably, eNOS and CSE, VEGF/VEGFR2, and Ang-1/Tie2. Important findings in the last decade have revealed that neurogenesis is not the stand-alone consideration in the fight for full functional recovery from stroke. Angiogenesis has been also shown to be critical in improving post-stroke neurological functional recovery. More than that, recent evidence has shown a highly possible interplay or dependence between stroke-induced neurogenesis and angiogenesis. Moving forward, elucidating the underlying mechanisms of this coupling between stroke-induced neurogenesis and angiogenesis will be of great importance, which will provide the basis for neurorestorative therapy.
PMCID: PMC4552615  PMID: 25736182
Stroke; neurogenesis; angiogenesis; ischemia; cell interaction
2.  Serum IL-33 Is a Novel Diagnostic and Prognostic Biomarker in Acute Ischemic Stroke 
Aging and Disease  2016;7(5):614-622.
Interleukin-33 (IL-33), a newly recognized IL-1 family member, is expressed in various tissues and cells, and involved in pathogenesis of many human diseases. For example, IL-33 plays a protective role in cardiovascular diseases. However, the role of IL-33 in acute ischemic stroke (AIS) remains unclear. This study aims to investigate whether IL-33 level in AIS patient serum can be used as a potential diagnostic and prognostic marker. The study included two hundred and six patients with first-ever ischemic stroke, who were admitted within 72 hours after stroke onset. The serum level of IL-33 was measured with ELISA and the severity of AIS patients on admission was evaluated based on the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) score. The functional outcome at 3 months was determined using the Barthel index (BI). We found that serum IL-33 was significantly higher (P < 0.001) in patients with AIS [57.68 ng/L (IQR, 44.95-76.73)] compared with healthy controls [47.48 ng/L (IQR, 38.67-53.78)]. IL-33 was an independent diagnostic biomarker for AIS with an OR of 1.051 (95%Cl, 1.018-1.085; P=0.002). Serum IL-33 was higher (P < 0.05) in the stroke patients with small cerebral infarction volume compared to AIS patients with large cerebral infarction. In addition, serum IL-33 was also significantly higher (P = 0.001) in the patients with mild stroke, compared to the patients with severe stroke. Furthermore, serum IL-33 level in AIS patients with a worse outcome was higher (P < 0.001) compared to AIS patients with a better outcome. IL-33 was also an independent predictor for the functional outcome with an adjusted OR of 0.932 (95% CI, 0.882-0.986). Our results suggest that the lower level of serum IL-33 is associated with large infarction volume and greater stroke severity in AIS patients. Thus, IL-33 can be used as a novel and independent diagnostic and predicting prognostic marker in AIS.
PMCID: PMC5036956  PMID: 27699084
interleukin-33; acute ischemic stroke; outcome; biomarker; diagnosis
3.  Nur77 exacerbates PC12 cellular injury in vitro by aggravating mitochondrial impairment and endoplasmic reticulum stress 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:34403.
The nuclear orphan receptor, Nur77 plays important roles in neuroimflammation, apoptosis, and dopaminergic neurodegeneration. We conducted a further mechanistic investigation into the association of Nur77 with cell death. Cytosporone B (Csn-B), an agonist for Nur77, and Nur77 knockdown were adopted in the 6-hydroxydopamine (OHDA)-lesioned PC12 cells to investigate the mechanisms underlying Nur77-mediated injury. The 6-OHDA incubation caused Nur77 translocation from the nucleus to cytosol and Endoplasm reticulum (ER) and induced co-localization of Tom20/Nur77 and Protein Disulfide Isomerase (PDI)/Nur77. Nur77 activation further decreased cell viability, aggravated intracellular LDH release, intracellular Ca2+, ROS levels, apoptosis, ER tress and, mitochondrial transmembrane potential (ΔΨm) decline. In addition, Nur77 activation significantly enhanced the efficiency of autophagy as indicated by an up-regulation of Beclin-1/LC-3 and downregulation of p62, and aggravated mitochondrial dysfunctions and ER stress as shown by increased HSP60/Cytochrome C (Cyt C) and CHOP-ATF3 levels respectively. These changes could be partially reversed by Nur77 knockdown. Moreover, Nur77 activation upregulated PINK1 and downregulated Parkin levels. We conclude that Nur77 exacerbates PC12 cell death at least partially by aggravating the mitochondrial impairment and ER stress and enhancing autophagy. We propose that Nur77 is likely a critical target in the PD therapy.
PMCID: PMC5041156  PMID: 27679973
4.  Ischemia-induced Angiogenesis is Attenuated in Aged Rats 
Aging and Disease  2015;7(4):326-335.
To study whether focal angiogenesis is induced in aged rodents after permanent distal middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO), young adult (3-month-old) and aged (24-month-old) Fisher 344 rats underwent MCAO and sacrificed up to two months after MCAO. Immunohistochemistry and synchrotron radiation microangiography were performed to examine the number of newly formed blood vessels in both young adult and aged rats post-ischemia. We found that the number of capillaries and small arteries in aged brain was the same as young adult brain. In addition, we found that after MCAO, the number of blood vessels in the peri-infarct region of ipsilateral hemisphere in aged ischemic rats was significantly increased compared to the aged sham rats (p<0.05). We also confirmed that ischemia-induced focal angiogenesis occurred in young adult rat brain while the blood vessel density in young adult ischemic brain was significantly higher than that in the aged ischemic brain (p<0.05). Our data suggests that focal angiogenesis in aged rat brain can be induced in response to ischemic brain injury, and that aging impedes brain repairing and remodeling after ischemic stroke, possible due to the limited response of angiogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4963187  PMID: 27493831
aging; angiogenesis; focal cerebral ischemia; rat; brain
5.  Estrogen therapy increases BDNF expression and improves post-stroke depression in ovariectomy-treated rats 
The present study investigated the effect of exogenous estrogen on post-stroke depression. Rats were exposed to chronic mild stress following middle cerebral artery occlusion. The occurrence of post-stroke depression was evaluated according to the changes in preference for sucrose and performance in a forced swimming test. Estrogen therapy significantly improved these neurological symptoms, indicating that estrogen is effective in treating post-stroke depression. Increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression was reported in the hippocampus of rats that had been treated with estrogen for two weeks, suggesting that BDNF expression may be an important contributor to the improvement of post-stroke depression that is observed following estrogen therapy.
PMCID: PMC4998153  PMID: 27602095
estrogen; post-stroke depression; brain-derived neurotrophic factor; animal behavior; hippocampus
6.  Cerebral regulatory T cells restrain microglia/macrophage-mediated inflammatory responses via IL-10 
European journal of immunology  2014;45(1):180-191.
Forkhead box P3 (Foxp3)+ regulatory T (Treg) cells maintain the immune tolerance and prevent inflammatory responses in the periphery. However, the presence of Treg cells in the central nervous system under steady state has not been studied. Here, for the first time, we show a substantial TCRαβ+CD4+Foxp3+ T-cell population (cerebral Treg cells) in the normal rat cerebrum, constituting more than 15% of the cerebral CD4+ T-cell compartment. Cerebral Treg cells showed an activated/memory phenotype and expressed many Treg-cell signature genes at higher levels than peripheral Treg cells. Consistent with their activated/memory phenotype, cerebral Treg cells robustly restrained the LPS-induced inflammatory responses of brain microglia/macrophages, suggesting a role in maintaining the cerebral homeostasis by inhibiting the neuroinflammation. In addition, brain astrocytes were the helper cells that sustained Foxp3 expression in Treg cells through IL-2/STAT5 signaling, showing that the interaction between astrocytes and Treg cells contributes to the maintenance of Treg-cell identity in the brain. Taken together, our work represents the first study to characterize the phenotypic and functional features of Treg cells in the normal rat cerebrum. Our data have provided a novel insight for the contribution of Treg cells to the immunosurveillance and immunomodulation in the cerebrum under steady state.
PMCID: PMC4293323  PMID: 25329858
Regulatory T cells; cerebrum; microglia; macrophages; inflammation
7.  Limb Ischemic Perconditioning Attenuates Blood-Brain Barrier Disruption by Inhibiting Activity of MMP-9 and Occludin Degradation after Focal Cerebral Ischemia 
Aging and Disease  2015;6(6):406-417.
Remote ischemic perconditioning (PerC) has been proved to have neuroprotective effects on cerebral ischemia, however, the effect of PerC on the BBB disruption and underlying mechanisms remains largely unknown. To address these issues, total 90 adult male Sprague Dawley (SD) rats were used. The rats underwent 90-min middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO), and the limb remote ischemic PerC was immediately applied after the onset of MCAO. We found that limb remote PerC protected BBB breakdown and brain edema, in parallel with reduced infarct volume and improved neurological deficits, after MCAO. Immunofluorescence studies revealed that MCAO resulted in disrupted continuity of claudin-5 staining in the cerebral endothelial cells with significant gap formation, which was significantly improved after PerC. Western blot analysis demonstrated that expression of tight junction (TJ) protein occludin was significantly increased, but other elements of TJ proteins, claudin-5 and ZO-1, in the BBB endothelial cells were not altered at 48 h after PerC, compared to MCAO group. The expression of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP-9), which was involved in TJ protein degradation, was decreased after PerC. Interestingly, phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (pERK1/2), an upstream of MMP-9 signaling, was significantly reduced in the PerC group. Our data suggest that PerC inhibits MMP-9-mediated occludin degradation, which could lead to decreased BBB disruption and brain edema after ischemic stroke.
PMCID: PMC4657812  PMID: 26618042
ischemic stroke; remote ischemic perconditioning; blood-brain barrier; tight junction; matrix metalloproteinases
8.  Herbal Formula Danggui-Shaoyao-San Promotes Neurogenesis and Angiogenesis in Rat Following Middle Cerebral Artery Occlusion 
Aging and Disease  2015;6(4):245-253.
Current studies demonstrated that traditional Chinese herbal formula Danggui-Shaoyao-San (DSS) is not only used for the treatment of menstrual disorder, but has also found its use in neurological diseases. However, the neuroprotective role of DSS on ischemia-induced brain injury is still unclear. The aim of the present study is to explore the effect of DSS in ischemic brain injury. Total 30 adult female Sprague–Dawley rats underwent 90 min transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO). DSS (600 mg/kg) was administered through the intragastric route at the time of reperfusion and then performed every day thereafter until sacrifice. Results showed that DSS treatment significantly improved neurobehavioral outcomes (N=10 per group, P<0.05). Immunohistochemical staining showed that microvessel density in the perifocal region of DSS-treated rats was significantly increased compared to the saline-treated group (N=4 per group, P<0.01). Similarly, the numbers of BrdU+/DCX+ cells in the subventricular zone were increased in DSS-treated rats compared to the saline-treated group (P<0.05). Furthermore, we demonstrated that DSS treatment activated vascular endothelial growth factor (N=4 per group, P<0.05) and promoted eNOS phosphorylation (N=4 per group, P<0.05). Thus, we concluded that DSS promoted focal angiogenesis and neurogenesis, and attenuated ischemia-induced brain injury in rats after MCAO, suggesting that DSS is a potential drug for ischemic stroke therapy.
PMCID: PMC4509473  PMID: 26236546
Ischemic stroke; Dangui-Shaoyao San; Angiogenesis; Neurogenesis
9.  Increasing Proliferation of Intrinsic Tubular Cells after Renal Ischemia-reperfusion Injury in Adult Rat 
Aging and Disease  2015;6(4):228-235.
The kidney is capable of regeneration following injury. However, whether renal stem/progenitor cells contribute to the repair process after injury, as well as the origin of the cells that repair and replace damaged renal tubule cells remains debated. Therefore, better understanding of the repair process will be critical to developing new strategies for the treatment of acute renal failure. Using an ischemia-reperfusion injury mode and an immunocytochemistry method, we counted the number of BrdU-positive cells in damged regions at different durations of reperfusion. We found that BrdU, a cell proliferative marker, was mainly incorporated in the tubular cells of both medulla and cortex 1 day after reperfusion. The number of BrdU-positive cells reached a peak at 3 days and lasted for two months after injury. BrdU-positive cells were barely found in the renal glomerulus and the parietal layer of Bowman’s capsule after injury, and only a few were found in the intersititium. PAX2, an embryonic renal marker, was also increased in renal tubule cells. Confocal images show that BrdU-positive cells co-expressed PAX2, but not the activated form of caspase-3, a cell death marker. Our data suggest that renal stem-like cells or dedifferentiation of surviving renal tubular cells in both the medulla and cortex may predominantly contribute to the repair process after renal ischemia-reperfusion injury in rat.
PMCID: PMC4509471  PMID: 26236544
kidney; ischemia-reperfusion injury; renal stem cells; proliferative cells; Pax-2; Adult
10.  Acceleration of Tissue Plasminogen Activator-Mediated Thrombolysis by Magnetically Powered Nanomotors 
ACS Nano  2014;8(8):7746-7754.
Dose control and effectiveness promotion of tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) for thrombolysis are vitally important to alleviate serious side effects such as hemorrhage in stroke treatments. In order to increase the effectiveness and reduce the risk of stroke treatment, we use rotating magnetic nanomotors to enhance the mass transport of t-PA molecules at the blood clot interface for local ischemic stroke therapy. The in vitro experiments demonstrate that, when combined with magnetically activated nanomotors, the thrombolysis speed of low-concentration t-PA (50 μg mL–1) can be enhanced up to 2-fold, to the maximum lysis speed at high t-PA concentration. Based on the convection enhanced transport theory due to rotating magnetic nanomotors, a theoretical model is proposed and predicts the experimental results reasonably well. The validity and efficiency of this enhanced treatment has been demonstrated in a rat embolic model.
PMCID: PMC4148143  PMID: 25006696
nanomotor; magnetic nanorods; stroke; acceleration of thrombolysis; enhanced mass transport
11.  Neural stem cell protects aged rat brain from ischemia–reperfusion injury through neurogenesis and angiogenesis 
Neural stem cells (NSCs) show therapeutic potential for ischemia in young-adult animals. However, the effect of aging on NSC therapy is largely unknown. In this work, NSCs were transplanted into aged (24-month-old) and young-adult (3-month-old) rats at 1 day after stroke. Infarct volume and neurobehavioral outcomes were examined. The number of differentiated NSCs was compared in aged and young-adult ischemic rats and angiogenesis and neurogenesis were also determined. We found that aged rats developed larger infarcts than young-adult rats after ischemia (P<0.05). The neurobehavioral outcome was also worse for aged rats comparing with young-adult rats. Brain infarction and neurologic deficits were attenuated after NSC transplantation in both aged and young-adult rats. The number of survived NSCs in aged rats was similar to that of the young-adult rats (P>0.05) and most of them were differentiated into glial fibrillary acidic protein+ (GFAP+) cells. More importantly, angiogenesis and neurogenesis were greatly enhanced in both aged and young-adult rats after transplantation compared with phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) control (P<0.05), accompanied by increased expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Our results showed that NSC therapy reduced ischemic brain injury, along with increased angiogenesis and neurogenesis in aged rats, suggesting that aging-related microenvironment does not preclude a beneficial response to NSCs transplantation during cerebral ischemia.
PMCID: PMC4083376  PMID: 24714034
aged rats; behavioral recovery; ischemia; neural stem cell transplantation
12.  mTOR signaling inhibition modulates macrophages/microglia-mediated neuroinflammation and secondary injury via regulatory T cells after focal ischemia 
Signaling by the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) plays an important role in the modulation of both innate and adaptive immune responses. However, the role and underlying mechanism of mTOR signaling in post-stroke neuroinflammation is largely unexplored. Here, we injected rapamycin, an mTOR inhibitor, by the intracerebroventricular route 6 hours after focal ischemic stroke in rats. We found that rapamycin significantly reduced lesion volume and improved behavioral deficits. Notably, infiltration of gamma delta T (γδ T) cells and granulocytes, which are detrimental to the ischemic brain, was profoundly reduced after rapamycin treatment, as was the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines by macrophages and microglia. Rapamycin treatment prevented brain macrophage polarization towards the M1 type. In addition, we also found that rapamycin significantly enhanced anti-inflammation activity of regulatory T cells (Tregs), which decreased production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines by macrophages and microglia. Depletion of Tregs partially elevated macrophage/microglia-induced neuroinflammation after stroke. Our data suggest that rapamycin can attenuate secondary injury and motor deficits after focal ischemia by enhancing the anti-inflammation activity of Tregs to restrain post-stroke neuroinflammation.
PMCID: PMC4128178  PMID: 24829408
Brain research  2014;1551:45-58.
Reactive astrogliosis is an essential feature of astrocytic response to all forms of central nervous system (CNS) injury and disease, which may benefit or harm surrounding neural and non-neural cells. Despite extensive study, its molecular triggers remain largely unknown in term of ischemic stroke. In the current study we investigated the role p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) in astrogliosis both in vitro and in vivo. In a mouse model of middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO), p38 MAPK activation was observed in the glia scar area, along with increased glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) expression. In primary astrocyte cultures, hypoxia and scratch injury-induced astrogliosis was attenuated by both p38 inhibition and knockout of p38 MAPK. In addition, both knockout and inhibition of p38 MAPK also reduced astrocyte migration, but did not affect astrocyte proliferation. In a mouse model of permanent MCAO, no significant difference in motor function recovery and lesion volume was observed between conditional GFAP/p38 MAPK knockout mice and littermates. While a significant reduction of astrogliosis was observed in the GFAP/p38 knockout mice compared with the littermates. Our findings suggest that p38 MAPK signaling pathway plays an important role in the ischemic stroke-induced astrogliosis and thus may serve as a novel target to control glial scar formation.
PMCID: PMC3987968  PMID: 24440774
p38 MAPK; astrocytes; astrogliosis; glial fibrillary acidic protein; stroke; ischemia
14.  Cross-Talk between Human Neural Stem/Progenitor Cells and Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells in an Allogeneic Co-Culture Model 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0117432.
Transplantation of human neural stem/progenitor cells (hNSCs) as a regenerative cell replacement therapy holds great promise. However, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. We, here, focused on the interaction between hNSCs and allogeneic peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) in a co-culture model. We found that hNSCs significantly decrease the CD3+ and CD8+ T cells, reduce the gamma delta T cells and increase the regulatory T cells, along with reduced pro-inflammatory cytokines and increased anti-inflammatory cytokines after co-culture. We also found that PBMCs, in turn, significantly promote the proliferation and differentiation of hNSCs. Our data suggest that hNSCs cross-talk with immune cells.
PMCID: PMC4319716  PMID: 25658950
15.  The Critical Need to Promote Research of Aging and Aging-related Diseases to Improve Health and Longevity of the Elderly Population 
Aging and Disease  2014;6(1):1-5.
Due to the aging of the global population and the derivative increase in aging-related non-communicable diseases and their economic burden, there is an urgent need to promote research on aging and aging-related diseases as a way to improve healthy and productive longevity for the elderly population. To accomplish this goal, we advocate the following policies: 1) Increasing funding for research and development specifically directed to ameliorate degenerative aging processes and to extend healthy and productive lifespan for the population; 2) Providing a set of incentives for commercial, academic, public and governmental organizations to foster engagement in such research and development; and 3) Establishing and expanding coordination and consultation structures, programs and institutions involved in aging-related research, development and education in academia, industry, public policy agencies and at governmental and supra-governmental levels.
PMCID: PMC4306469  PMID: 25657847
aging; aging-related diseases; health; longevity; elderly; population
16.  Contra-Directional Expression of Serum Homocysteine and Uric Acid as Important Biomarkers of Multiple System Atrophy Severity: A Cross-Sectional Study 
Serum Hcy was higher in MSA patients when compared to healthy subjects, particularly in male patients.
Serum UA was lower in MSA patients when compared healthy subjects, particularly in male patients.
Serum Hcy levels were significantly positively correlated with the severity of MSA.
The ROC curve for the combination of Hcy and UA showed potential diagnostic value in discriminating MSA from healthy subjects.
There is evidence suggesting that inflammatory responses play a critical role in the pathogenesis of multiple system atrophy (MSA). Whether inflammatory mediators can be used as reliable biomarkers to detect the severity and progression of MSA remains largely unknown.
We performed a cross-sectional study that included 47 patients with MSA and 50 healthy age-matched controls. Serum levels of homocysteine (Hcy), uric acid (UA), and C-reactive protein (CRP) were measured. These levels positively correlated with the severity of MSA, based on both motor and non-motor symptoms. Several scales were used to rate the severity of MSA, including the Unified multiple system atrophy rating scale, Parkinson’s disease sleep scale, Non-motor Symptoms Scale, the Schwab & England activities of daily living scale, Webster Scale, modified Hoehn and Yahr staging scale, and the Mini-Mental State Examination. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves was applied to map the diagnostic accuracy of MSA against healthy subjects.
Compared with healthy subjects, we found that serum Hcy was higher, UA was lower, and CRP levels were unchanged in MSA patients. These findings were especially prominent in male patients. No significant differences of serum Hcy and UA were observed between patients of MSA and PD. Interestingly, there was a significant correlation between Hcy levels and MSA severity such as movement dysfunction, declined cognition, and cardiovascular symptoms. Additionally, the ROC curve for the combination of Hcy and UA (AUC 0.736) showed potential diagnostic value in discriminating MSA from healthy subjects.
Our findings suggest that the inflammatory mediators Hcy and UA may play important roles in the pathogenesis of MSA. The measurement of serum Hcy and UA levels could then be a useful tool to accurately distinguish MSA from healthy subjects.
PMCID: PMC4492156  PMID: 26217177
multiple system atrophy; homocysteine; uric acid; cognition; inflammation
17.  Activated regulatory T cell regulates neural stem cell proliferation in the subventricular zone of normal and ischemic mouse brain through interleukin 10 
Recent studies have demonstrated that the depletion of Regulatory T cells (Tregs) inhibits neural progenitor cell migration after brain ischemia. However, whether Tregs affect neural stem/progenitor cell proliferation is unclear. We explored the effect of Tregs on neurogenesis in the subventricular zone (SVZ) after ischemia. Tregs were isolated and activated in vitro. Adult male C57BL/6 mice underwent 60 min transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (tMCAO). Then Tregs (1 × 105) were injected into the left lateral ventricle (LV) of normal and ischemic mouse brain. Neurogenesis was determined by immunostaining. The mechanism was examined by inhibiting interleukin 10 (IL-10) and transforming growth factor (TGF-β) signaling. We found that the number of BrdU+ cells in the SVZ was significantly increased in the activated Tregs-treated mice. Double immunostaining showed that these BrdU+ cells expressed Mash1. Blocking IL-10 reduced the number of Mash1+/BrdU+ cells, but increased the amount of GFAP+/BrdU+ cells. Here, we conclude that activated Tregs enhanced neural stem cell (NSC) proliferation in the SVZ of normal and ischemic mice; blockage of IL-10 abolished Tregs-mediated NSC proliferation in vivo and in vitro. Our results suggest that activated Tregs promoted NSC proliferation via IL-10, which provides a new therapeutic approach for ischemic stroke.
PMCID: PMC4568339  PMID: 26441532
brain ischemia; interleukin 10; neurogenesis; regulatory T cell; subventricular zone
18.  Notch1 Signaling Modulates Neuronal Progenitor Activity in the Subventricular Zone in Response to Aging and Focal Ischemia 
Aging cell  2013;12(6):10.1111/acel.12134.
Neurogenesis diminishes with aging and ischemia-induced neurogenesis also occurs, but reduced in aged brain. Currently, the cellular and molecular pathways mediating these effects remain largely unknown. Our previous study has shown that Notch1 signaling regulates neurogenesis in subventricular zone (SVZ) of young-adult brain after focal ischemia, but whether a similar effect occurs in aged normal and ischemic animals is unknown. Here, we used normal and ischemic aged rat brains to investigate whether Notch1 signaling was involved in the reduction of neurogenesis in response to aging and modulates neurogenesis in aged brains after focal ischemia. By Western blot, we found that Notch1 and Jagged1 expression in the SVZ of aged brain was significantly reduced compared with young-adult brain. Consistently, the activated form of Notch1(Notch intracellular domain;NICD) expression was also declined. Immunohistochemistry confirmed that expression and activation of Notch1 signaling in the SVZ of aged brain were reduced. Double or triple immunostaining showed that that Notch1 was mainly expressed in DCX-positive cells, whereas Jagged1 was predominantly expressed in astroglial cells in the SVZ of normal aged rat brain. In addition, disruption or activation of Notch1 signaling altered the number of proliferating cells labeled by bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) and doublecortin (DCX) in the SVZ of aged brain. Moreover, ischemia-induced cell proliferation in the SVZ of aged brain was enhanced by activating the Notch1 pathway, and was suppressed by inhibiting the Notch1 signaling. Reduced infarct volume and improved motor deficits were also observed in Notch1 activator-treated aged ischemic rats. Our data suggest that Notch1 signaling modulates the SVZ neurogenesis in aged brain in normal and ischemic conditions.
PMCID: PMC3838489  PMID: 23834718
Notch1 signaling pathway; aged rat brain; neurogenesis; focal cerebral ischemia
19.  Neurogenesis in Adult Human Brain after Traumatic Brain Injury 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2013;30(22):1872-1880.
While much work has been conducted regarding the neurogenesis response to traumatic brain injury (TBI) in rodents, it remains largely unknown whether neurogenesis in adult human brain also responds to TBI in a similar manner. Here, we performed immunocytochemistry on 11 brain specimens from patients with traumatic brain injury, who underwent surgical intervention. We found that expression of neural stem/progenitor cell (NSC) protein markers, including DCX, TUC4, PSA-NCAM, SOX2 and NeuroD, was increased in the perilesional cortex of human brain after TBI compared to that of normal brain. Confocal images showed that these NSC proteins were expressed in one single cell. We also found that proliferative markers were expressed in NSC protein-positive cells after TBI, and the number of proliferative NSCs was significantly increased after TBI. Our data suggest that TBI may also induce neurogenesis in human brain.
PMCID: PMC3815038  PMID: 21275797
brain trauma; human; injury; neurogenesis; stem cells
20.  Notch4 is Activated in Endothelial and Smooth Muscle Cells in Human Brain Arteriovenous Malformations 
Journal of cellular and molecular medicine  2013;17(11):10.1111/jcmm.12115.
Upregulation of Notch4 was observed in the endothelial cells in the arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) in mice. However, whether Notch4 is also involved in brain AVMs in humans remains unclear. Here, we performed immunohistochemistry on normal brain vascular tissue and surgically-resection brain AVMs and found that Notch4 was upregulated in the subset of abnormal vessels of the brain AVM nidus, compared with control brain vascular tissue. Two-photon confocal images show that Notch4 was expressed not only in the endothelial but also in the smooth muscle cells of the vascular wall in brain AVMs. Western blotting shows that Notch 4 was activated in brain AVMs, but not in middle cerebral artery of normal human brain, which was confirmed by immunostaining. Our findings suggest a possible contribution of Notch4 signaling to the development of brain AVMs in human.
PMCID: PMC3877925  PMID: 24373503
Notch4; AVM; human; brain; signaling
21.  A positive allosteric modulator of α7 nAChRs augments neuroprotective effects of endogenous nicotinic agonists in cerebral ischaemia 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2013;169(8):1862-1878.
Background and Purpose
Activation of α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) can be neuroprotective. However, endogenous choline and ACh have not been regarded as potent neuroprotective agents because physiological levels of choline/ACh do not produce neuroprotective levels of α7 activation. This limitation may be overcome by the use of type-II positive allosteric modulators (PAMs-II) of α7 nAChRs, such as 1-(5-chloro-2,4-dimethoxyphenyl)-3-(5-methylisoxazol-3-yl)-urea (PNU-120596). This proof-of-concept study presents a novel neuroprotective paradigm that converts endogenous choline/ACh into potent neuroprotective agents in cerebral ischaemia by inhibiting α7 nAChR desensitization using PNU-120596.
Experimental Approach
An electrophysiological ex vivo cell injury assay (to quantify the susceptibility of hippocampal neurons to acute injury by complete oxygen and glucose deprivation; COGD) and an in vivo middle cerebral artery occlusion model of ischaemia were used in rats.
Key Results
Choline (20–200 μM) in the presence, but not absence of 1 μM PNU-120596 significantly delayed anoxic depolarization/injury of hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons, but not CA1 stratum radiatum interneurons, subjected to COGD in acute hippocampal slices and these effects were blocked by 20 nM methyllycaconitine, a selective α7 antagonist, thus, activation of α7 nAChRs was required. PNU-120596 alone was ineffective ex vivo. In in vivo experiments, both pre- and post-ischaemia treatments with PNU-120596 (30 mg·kg−1, s.c. and 1 mg·kg−1, i.v., respectively) significantly reduced the cortical/subcortical infarct volume caused by transient focal cerebral ischaemia. PNU-120596 (1 mg·kg−1, i.v., 30 min post-ischaemia) remained neuroprotective in rats subjected to a choline-deficient diet for 14 days prior to experiments.
Conclusions and Implications
PNU-120596 and possibly other PAMs-II significantly improved neuronal survival in cerebral ischaemia by augmenting neuroprotective effects of endogenous choline/ACh.
PMCID: PMC3753841  PMID: 23713819
PNU120596; PNU-120596; neuroprotection; anoxic depolarization; choline; α7 nAChR; hippocampus; cortex; ischaemia
22.  Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors (VEGFs) and Stroke 
Vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGFs) have been shown to participate in atherosclerosis, arteriogenesis, cerebral edema, neuroprotection, neurogenesis, angiogenesis, postischemic brain and vessel repair, and the effects of transplanted stem cells in experimental stroke. Most of these actions involve VEGF-A and the VEGFR-2 receptor, but VEGF-B, placental growth factor, and VEGFR-1 have been implicated in some cases as well. VEGF signaling pathways represent important potential targets for the acute and chronic treatment of stroke.
PMCID: PMC3634892  PMID: 23475070
vascular endothelial growth factor; stroke; ischemia; neuroprotection; neurogenesis; angiogenesis
23.  Expression Level of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor in Hippocampus is Associated with Cognitive Impairment in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease 
Neurobiology of aging  2012;34(5):1412-1415.
Although the enhanced expression of VEGF in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has been reported, the functional significance of VEGF level in the progression of AD is still unclear. We examined the VEGF expression in the hippocampus of patients with AD at different stages of progression by Western blot, and found that VEGF (VEGF189) was barely detectable in normal hippocampus, but significantly increased at the early stage of patients with AD. VEGF189 was decreased with advancing stages of AD. Immunostaining shows that VEGF was significantly increased in the cells in the CA1, CA3 and dentate gyrus regions of hippocampus and the layer III and V of entorhinal cortex of patient with AD, compared to normal brain. Confocal images show that VEGF was predominantly expressed in neurons and astrocyte in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex of patients with AD. Our data suggest that VEGF level is associated with progressive loss of cognitive function in patients with AD.
PMCID: PMC3570710  PMID: 23182805
VEGF; Alzheimer’s disease; Human; brain; expression
24.  Inhibition of mammalian target of rapamycin improves neurobehavioral deficit and modulates immune response after intracerebral hemorrhage in rat 
Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), a serine/threonine kinase, regulates many processes, including cell growth and the immune response. mTOR is also dysregulated in several neurological diseases, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), stroke, and neurodegenerative disease. However, the role of mTOR in intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) remains unexplored. The aims of our study were to determine whether inhibiting mTOR signaling could affect the outcome after ICH and to investigate the possible underlying mechanism.
A rat ICH model was induced by intracerebral injection of collagenase IV into the striatum, and mTOR activation was inhibited by administration of rapamycin. mTOR signaling activation was determined by western blotting. Neurobehavioral deficit after ICH was determined by a set of modified Neurological Severity Scores (mNSS). The levels of CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) and cytokines were examined using flow cytometry and ELISA, respectively.
Our results demonstrated thatmTOR signaling was activated 30 minutes and returned to its basal level 1 day after ICH. Increased p-mTOR, which mean that mTOR signaling was activated, was predominantly located around the hematoma. Rapamycin treatment significantly improved the neurobehavioral deficit after ICH, increased the number of Tregs, increased levels of interleukin-10 and transforming growth factor-β and reduced interferon-γ both in peripheral blood and brain.
Our study suggests that mTOR improves ICH outcome and modulates immune response after ICH.
PMCID: PMC3975837  PMID: 24602288
ICH; mTOR; Rapamycin; Outcome; Immune response
25.  Methylene blue promotes quiescence of rat neural progenitor cells 
Neural stem cell-based treatment holds a new therapeutic opportunity for neurodegenerative disorders. Here, we investigated the effect of methylene blue on proliferation and differentiation of rat neural progenitor cells (NPCs) both in vitro and in vivo. We found that methylene blue inhibited proliferation and promoted quiescence of NPCs in vitro without affecting committed neuronal differentiation. Consistently, intracerebroventricular infusion of methylene blue significantly inhibited NPC proliferation at the subventricular zone (SVZ). Methylene blue inhibited mTOR signaling along with down-regulation of cyclins in NPCs in vitro and in vivo. In summary, our study indicates that methylene blue may delay NPC senescence through enhancing NPCs quiescence.
PMCID: PMC4188130  PMID: 25339866
methylene blue; neural progenitor cell; quiescence; proliferation; neurogenesis

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