Traumatic brain injury (TBI) induces primary and secondary damage in both the endothelium and the brain parenchyma, collectively termed the neurovascular unit. While neurons die quickly by necrosis, a vicious cycle of secondary injury in endothelial cells exacerbates the initial injury in the neurovascular unit following TBI. In activated endothelial cells, excessive superoxide reacts with nitric oxide (NO) to form peroxynitrite. Peroxynitrite has been implicated in blood brain barrier (BBB) leakage, altered metabolic function, and neurobehavioral impairment. S-nitrosoglutathione (GSNO), a nitrosylation-based signaling molecule, was reported not only to reduce brain levels of peroxynitrite and oxidative metabolites but also to improve neurological function in TBI, stroke, and spinal cord injury. Therefore, we investigated whether GSNO promotes the neurorepair process by reducing the levels of peroxynitrite and the degree of oxidative injury.
TBI was induced by controlled cortical impact (CCI) in adult male rats. GSNO or 3-Morpholino-sydnonimine (SIN-1) (50 μg/kg body weight) was administered orally two hours following CCI. The same dose was repeated daily until endpoints. GSNO-treated (GSNO group) or SIN-1-treated (SIN-1 group) injured animals were compared with vehicle-treated injured animals (TBI group) and vehicle-treated sham-operated animals (Sham group) in terms of peroxynitrite, NO, glutathione (GSH), lipid peroxidation, blood brain barrier (BBB) leakage, edema, inflammation, tissue structure, axon/myelin integrity, and neurotrophic factors.
SIN-1 treatment of TBI increased whereas GSNO treatment decreased peroxynitrite, lipid peroxides/aldehydes, BBB leakage, inflammation and edema in a short-term treatment (4-48 hours). GSNO also reduced brain infarctions and enhanced the levels of NO and GSH. In a long-term treatment (14 days), GSNO protected axonal integrity, maintained myelin levels, promoted synaptic plasticity, and enhanced the expression of neurotrophic factors.
Our findings indicate the participation of peroxynitrite in the pathobiology of TBI. GSNO treatment of TBI not only reduces peroxynitrite but also protects the integrity of the neurovascular unit, indicating that GSNO blunts the deleterious effects of peroxynitrite. A long-term treatment of TBI with the same low dose of GSNO promotes synaptic plasticity and enhances the expression of neurotrophic factors. These results support that GSNO reduces the levels of oxidative metabolites, protects the neurovascular unit, and promotes neurorepair mechanisms in TBI.