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1.  Berberine Protects against Neuronal Damage via Suppression of Glia-Mediated Inflammation in Traumatic Brain Injury 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e115694.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) triggers a series of neuroinflammatory processes that contribute to evolution of neuronal injury. The present study investigated the neuroprotective effects and anti-inflammatory actions of berberine, an isoquinoline alkaloid, in both in vitro and in vivo TBI models. Mice subjected to controlled cortical impact injury were injected with berberine (10 mg·kg−1) or vehicle 10 min after injury. In addition to behavioral studies and histology analysis, blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability and brain water content were determined. Expression of PI3K/Akt and Erk signaling and inflammatory mediators were also analyzed. The protective effect of berberine was also investigated in cultured neurons either subjected to stretch injury or exposed to conditioned media with activated microglia. Berberine significantly attenuated functional deficits and brain damage associated with TBI up to day 28 post-injury. Berberine also reduced neuronal death, apoptosis, BBB permeability, and brain edema at day 1 post-injury. These changes coincided with a marked reduction in leukocyte infiltration, microglial activation, matrix metalloproteinase-9 activity, and expression of inflammatory mediators. Berberine had no effect on Akt or Erk 1/2 phosphorylation. In mixed glial cultures, berberine reduced TLR4/MyD88/NF-κB signaling. Berberine also attenuated neuronal death induced by microglial conditioned media; however, it did not directly protect cultured neurons subjected to stretch injury. Moreover, administration of berberine at 3 h post-injury also reduced TBI-induced neuronal damage, apoptosis and inflammation in vivo. Berberine reduces TBI-induced brain damage by limiting the production of inflammatory mediators by glial cells, rather than by a direct neuroprotective effect.
PMCID: PMC4278716  PMID: 25546475
2.  Post-Injury Treatment with 7,8-Dihydroxyflavone, a TrkB Receptor Agonist, Protects against Experimental Traumatic Brain Injury via PI3K/Akt Signaling 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e113397.
Tropomyosin-related kinase B (TrkB) signaling is critical for promoting neuronal survival following brain damage. The present study investigated the effects and underlying mechanisms of TrkB activation by the TrkB agonist 7,8-dihydroxyflavone (7,8-DHF) on traumatic brain injury (TBI). Mice subjected to controlled cortical impact received intraperitoneal 7,8-DHF or vehicle injection 10 min post-injury and subsequently daily for 3 days. Behavioral studies, histology analysis and brain water content assessment were performed. Levels of TrkB signaling-related molecules and apoptosis-related proteins were analyzed. The protective effect of 7,8-DHF was also investigated in primary neurons subjected to stretch injury. Treatment with 20 mg/kg 7,8-DHF attenuated functional deficits and brain damage up to post-injury day 28. 7,8-DHF also reduced brain edema, neuronal death, and apoptosis at day 4. These changes were accompanied by a significant decrease in cleaved caspase-3 and increase in Bcl-2/Bax ratio. 7,8-DHF enhanced phosphorylation of TrkB, Akt (Ser473/Thr308), and Bad at day 4, but had no effect on Erk 1/2 phosphorylation. Moreover, 7,8-DHF increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels and promoted cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) activation. This beneficial effect was attenuated by inhibition of TrkB or PI3K/Akt. 7,8-DHF also promoted survival and reduced apoptosis in cortical neurons subjected to stretch injury. Remarkably, delayed administration of 7,8-DHF at 3 h post-injury reduced brain tissue damage. Our study demonstrates that activation of TrkB signaling by 7,8-DHF protects against TBI via the PI3K/Akt but not Erk pathway, and this protective effect may be amplified via the PI3K/Akt-CREB cascades.
PMCID: PMC4240709  PMID: 25415296
3.  Cortical Reorganization after Experimental Traumatic Brain Injury: A Functional Autoradiography Study 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2013;30(13):1137-1146.
Cortical sensorimotor (SM) maps are a useful readout for providing a global view of the underlying status of evoked brain function, as well as a gross overview of ongoing mechanisms of plasticity. Recent evidence in the rat controlled cortical impact (CCI) injury model shows that the ipsilesional (injured) hemisphere is temporarily permissive for axon sprouting. This would predict that size and spatial alterations in cortical maps may occur much earlier than previously tested and that they might be useful as potential markers of the postinjury plasticity period as well as indicators of outcome. We investigated the evolution of changes in brain activation evoked by affected hindlimb electrical stimulation at 4, 7, and 30 days following CCI or sham injury over the hindlimb cortical region of adult rats. [14C]-iodoantipyrine autoradiography was used to quantitatively examine the local cerebral blood flow changes in response to hindlimb stimulation as a marker for neuronal activity. The results show that although ipsilesional hindlimb SM activity was persistently depressed from 4 days, additional novel regions of ipsilesional activity appeared concurrently within SM barrel and S2 regions as well as posterior auditory cortex. Simultaneously with this was the appearance of evoked activity within the intact, contralesional cortex that was maximal at 4 and 7 days, compared to stimulated sham-injured rats, where activation was solely unilateral. By 30 days, however, contralesional activation had greatly subsided and existing ipsilesional activity was enhanced within the same novel cortical regions that were identified acutely. These data indicate that significant reorganization of the cortical SM maps occurs after injury that evolves with a particular postinjury time course. We discuss these data in terms of the known mechanisms of plasticity that are likely to underlie these map changes, with particular reference to the differences and similarities that exist between rodent models of stroke and traumatic brain injury.
PMCID: PMC3700473  PMID: 23305562
autoradiography; blood flow; cortical contusion injury; plasticity
4.  Autophagy in the Human Placenta throughout Gestation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83475.
Autophagy has been reported to be essential for pre-implantation development and embryo survival. However, its role in placental development and regulation of autophagy during pregnancy remain unclear. The aims of this study were to (1) study autophagy by characterizing changes in levels of beclin-1, DRAM, and LC3B in human placenta throughout gestation; (2) determine whether autophagy is involved in regulation of trophoblast invasion in JEG-3 cells (a choriocarcinoma cell line); (3) examine the effects of reduced oxygen and glucose on the autophagic changes; and (4) investigate the effect of reoxygenation and supplementation of glucose after oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD) on the autophagic changes in primary cytotrophoblasts obtained from normal term pregnancy.
Methodology/Principal Findings
An analysis of 40 placental samples representing different gestational stages showed (1) no significant differences in beclin-1, DRAM, and LC3B-II levels in placentas between early and mid-gestation, and late gestation with vaginal delivery; (2) placentas from late gestation with cesarean section had lower levels of LC3B-II compared to early and mid-gestation, and late gestation with vaginal delivery; levels of DRAM were also lower compared to placentas from early and mid-gestation; and (3) using explant cultures, villous tissues from early and late gestation had similar rates of autophagic flux under physiological oxygen concentrations. Knockdown of BECN1, DRAM, and LC3B had no effects on viability and invasion activity of JEG-3 cells. On the other hand, OGD caused a significant increase in the levels of LC3B-II in primary cytotrophoblasts, while re-supplementation of oxygen and glucose reduced these changes. Furthermore, there were differential changes in levels of beclin-1, DRAM, and LC3B-II in response to changes in oxygen and glucose levels.
Our results indicate that autophagy is involved in development of the human placenta and that changes in oxygen and glucose levels participate in regulation of autophagic changes in cytotrophoblast cells.
PMCID: PMC3862763  PMID: 24349516
5.  Preventing Flow-Metabolism Uncoupling Acutely Reduces Axonal Injury after Traumatic Brain Injury 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2012;29(7):1469-1482.
We have previously presented evidence that the development of secondary traumatic axonal injury is related to the degree of local cerebral blood flow (LCBF) and flow-metabolism uncoupling. We have now tested the hypothesis that augmenting LCBF in the acute stages after brain injury prevents further axonal injury. Data were acquired from rats with or without acetazolamide (ACZ) that was administered immediately following controlled cortical impact injury to increase cortical LCBF. Local cerebral metabolic rate for glucose (LCMRglc) and LCBF measurements were obtained 3 h post-trauma in the same rat via 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose and 14C-iodoantipyrine co-registered autoradiographic images, and compared to the density of damaged axonal profiles in adjacent sections, and in additional groups at 24 h used to assess different populations of injured axons stereologically. ACZ treatment significantly and globally elevated LCBF twofold above untreated-injured rats at 3 h (p<0.05), but did not significantly affect LCMRglc. As a result, ipsilateral LCMRglc:LCBF ratios were reduced by twofold to sham-control levels, and the density of β-APP-stained axons at 24 h was significantly reduced in most brain regions compared to the untreated-injured group (p<0.01). Furthermore, early LCBF augmentation prevented the injury-associated increase in the number of stained axons from 3–24 h. Additional robust stereological analysis of impaired axonal transport and neurofilament compaction in the corpus callosum and cingulum underlying the injury core confirmed the amelioration of β-APP axon density, and showed a trend, but no significant effect, on RMO14-positive axons. These data underline the importance of maintaining flow-metabolism coupling immediately after injury in order to prevent further axonal injury, in at least one population of injured axons.
PMCID: PMC3335110  PMID: 22321027
autoradiography; blood flow; cortical contusion injury; glucose metabolism; uncoupling
6.  Salidroside Improves Behavioral and Histological Outcomes and Reduces Apoptosis via PI3K/Akt Signaling after Experimental Traumatic Brain Injury 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45763.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) induces a complex sequence of apopototic cascades that contribute to secondary tissue damage. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of salidroside, a phenolic glycoside with potent anti-apoptotic properties, on behavioral and histological outcomes, brain edema, and apoptosis following experimental TBI and the possible involvement of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase/protein kinase B (PI3K)/Akt signaling pathway.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Mice subjected to controlled cortical impact injury received intraperitoneal salidroside (20, or 50 mg/kg) or vehicle injection 10 min after injury. Behavioral studies, histology analysis and brain water content assessment were performed. Levels of PI3K/Akt signaling-related molecules, apoptosis-related proteins, cytochrome C (CytoC), and Smac/DIABLO were also analyzed. LY294002, a PI3K inhibitor, was administered to examine the mechanism of protection. The protective effect of salidroside was also investigated in primary cultured neurons subjected to stretch injury. Treatment with 20 mg/kg salidroside_significantly improved functional recovery and reduced brain tissue damage up to post-injury day 28. Salidroside_also significantly reduced neuronal death, apoptosis, and brain edema at day 1. These changes were associated with significant decreases in cleaved caspase-3, CytoC, and Smac/DIABLO at days 1 and 3. Salidroside increased phosphorylation of Akt on Ser473 and the mitochondrial Bcl-2/Bax ratio at day 1, and enhanced phosphorylation of Akt on Thr308 at day 3. This beneficial effect was abolished by pre-injection of LY294002. Moreover, delayed administration of salidroside at 3 or 6 h post-injury reduced neuronal damage at day 1. Salidroside treatment also decreased neuronal vulnerability to stretch-induced injury in vitro.
Post-injury salidroside improved long-term behavioral and histological outcomes and reduced brain edema and apoptosis following TBI, at least partially via the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC3454376  PMID: 23029230
7.  Increased Autophagy in Placentas of Intrauterine Growth-Restricted Pregnancies 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40957.
Unexplained intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) may be a consequence of placental insufficiency; however, its etiology is not fully understood. We surmised that defective placentation in IUGR dysregulates cellular bioenergic homeostasis, leading to increased autophagy in the villous trophoblast. The aims of this work were (1) to compare the differences in autophagy, p53 expression, and apoptosis between placentas of women with normal or IUGR pregnancies; (2) to study the effects of hypoxia and the role of p53 in regulating trophoblast autophagy; and (3) to investigate the relationship between autophagy and apoptosis in hypoxic trophoblasts.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Compared with normal pregnant women, women with IUGR had higher placental levels of autophagy-related proteins LC3B-II, beclin-1, and damage-regulated autophagy modulator (DRAM), with increased p53 and caspase-cleaved cytokeratin 18 (M30). Furthermore, cytotrophoblasts cultured under hypoxia (2% oxygen) in the presence or absence of nutlin-3 (a p53 activity stimulator) had higher levels of LC3B-II, DRAM, and M30 proteins and increased Bax mRNA expression compared with controls cultured under standard conditions. In contrast, administration of pifithrin-α (a p53 activity inhibitor) during hypoxia resulted in protein levels that were similar to those of the control groups. Moreover, cytotrophoblasts transfected with LC3B, beclin-1, or DRAM siRNA had higher levels of M30 compared with the controls under hypoxia. However, transfection with Bcl-2 or Bax siRNA did not cause any significant change in the levels of LC3B-II in hypoxic cytotrophoblasts.
Together, these results suggest that there is a crosstalk between autophagy and apoptosis in IUGR and that p53 plays a pivotal and complex role in regulating trophoblast cell turnover in response to hypoxic stress.
PMCID: PMC3397998  PMID: 22815878
8.  Wogonin Improves Histological and Functional Outcomes, and Reduces Activation of TLR4/NF-κB Signaling after Experimental Traumatic Brain Injury 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30294.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) initiates a neuroinflammatory cascade that contributes to neuronal damage and behavioral impairment. This study was undertaken to investigate the effects of wogonin, a flavonoid with potent anti-inflammatory properties, on functional and histological outcomes, brain edema, and toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4)- and nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB)-related signaling pathways in mice following TBI.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Mice subjected to controlled cortical impact injury were injected with wogonin (20, 40, or 50 mg·kg−1) or vehicle 10 min after injury. Behavioral studies, histology analysis, and measurement of blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability and brain water content were carried out to assess the effects of wogonin. Levels of TLR4/NF-κB-related inflammatory mediators were also examined. Treatment with 40 mg·kg−1 wogonin significantly improved functional recovery and reduced contusion volumes up to post-injury day 28. Wogonin also significantly reduced neuronal death, BBB permeability, and brain edema beginning at day 1. These changes were associated with a marked reduction in leukocyte infiltration, microglial activation, TLR4 expression, NF-κB translocation to nucleus and its DNA binding activity, matrix metalloproteinase-9 activity, and expression of inflammatory mediators, including interleukin-1β, interleukin-6, macrophage inflammatory protein-2, and cyclooxygenase-2.
Our results show that post-injury wogonin treatment improved long-term functional and histological outcomes, reduced brain edema, and attenuated the TLR4/NF-κB-mediated inflammatory response in mouse TBI. The neuroprotective effects of wogonin may be related to modulation of the TLR4/NF-κB signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC3260265  PMID: 22272328
9.  Differential Effects of Concomitant Use of Vitamins C and E on Trophoblast Apoptosis and Autophagy between Normoxia and Hypoxia-Reoxygenation 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12202.
Concomitant supplementation of vitamins C and E during pregnancy has been reportedly associated with low birth weight, the premature rupture of membranes and fetal loss or perinatal death in women at risk for preeclampsia; however, the cause is unknown. We surmise that hypoxia-reoxygenation (HR) within the intervillous space due to abnormal placentation is the mechanism and hypothesize that concomitant administration of aforementioned vitamin antioxidants detrimentally affects trophoblast cells during HR.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using villous explants, concomitant administration of 50 µM of vitamins C and E was observed to reduce apoptotic and autophagic changes in the trophoblast layer at normoxia (8% oxygen) but to cause more prominent apoptosis and autophagy during HR. Furthermore, increased levels of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL in association with a decrease in the autophagy-related protein LC3-II were noted in cytotrophoblastic cells treated with vitamins C and E under standard culture conditions. In contrast, vitamin treatment decreased Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL as well as increased mitochondrial Bak and cytosolic LC3-II in cytotrophoblasts subjected to HR.
Our results indicate that concomitant administration of vitamins C and E has differential effects on the changes of apoptosis, autophagy and the expression of Bcl-2 family of proteins in the trophoblasts between normoxia and HR. These changes may probably lead to the impairment of placental function and suboptimal growth of the fetus.
PMCID: PMC2922378  PMID: 20808946

Results 1-9 (9)