Development of next-generation analgesics requires a better understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying pathological pain. Accumulating evidence suggests that the activation of glia contributes to the central sensitization of pain signaling in the spinal cord. The role of microglia in pathological pain has been well documented, while that of astrocytes still remains unclear. After peripheral nerve inflammation or injury, spinal microglia are initially activated and subsequently sustained activation of astrocytes is precipitated, which are implicated in the induction and maintenance of pathological pain. Astrocytic activation is caused by the production of diffusible factors from primary afferent neurons (neuron-to-astrocyte signals) and activated microglia (microglia-to-astrocyte signals). Although astrocyte-to-neuron signals implicated in pathological pain is poorly understood, activated astrocytes, as well as microglia, produce proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines, which lead to adaptation of the dorsal horn neurons. Furthermore, it has been suggested that glial glutamate transporters in the spinal astrocytes are down-regulated in pathological pain and that up-regulation or functional enhancement of these transporters prevents pathological pain. This review will briefly discuss novel findings on the role of spinal astrocytes in pathological pain and their potential as a therapeutic target for novel analgesics.
Sepsis remains the leading cause of death in critically ill patients. A major problem contributing to sepsis-related high mortality is the lack of effective medical treatment. Thus, the key goal in critical care medicine is to develop novel therapeutic strategies that will impact favorably on septic patient outcome. While it is generally accepted that sepsis is an inflammatory state resulting from the systemic response to infection, apoptosis is implicated to be an important mechanism of the death of lymphocytes, gastrointestinal and lung epithelial cells, and vascular endothelial cells associated with the development of multiple organ failure in sepsis. The pivotal role of cell apoptosis is now highlighted by multiple studies demonstrating that prevention of cell apoptosis can improve survival in clinically relevant animal models of sepsis. In this review article, we address the scientific rationale for remedying apoptotic cell death in sepsis and propose that therapeutic efforts aimed at blocking cell signaling pathways leading to apoptosis may represent an attractive target for sepsis therapy.
Intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) is a devastating neurological disorder with high mortality and poor prognosis, for which virtually no effective drug therapies are available at present. Experimental animal models, based on intrastriatal injection of collagenase or autologous blood, have enabled great advances in elucidation of cellular/molecular events contributing to brain pathogenesis associated with ICH. Many lines of evidence indicate that blood constituents, including hemoglobin-derived products as well as proteases such as thrombin, play important roles in the pathogenic events. Inflammatory reactions involving neutrophils, activated microglia, and production of proinflammatory cytokines also constitute a critical aspect of pathology leading to neurodegeneration and tissue damage. Efforts are continuing to find drugs that potentially alleviate pathological and neurological outcomes of ICH. Various drugs that possess antioxidative, anti-inflammatory or neurotrophic/neuroprotective properties have been demonstrated to produce therapeutic effects on ICH animal models. Drugs already in clinical use such as minocycline, statins, and several nuclear receptor ligands are among the list of effective drugs, but whether they also show therapeutic efficacy in human ICH patients remains unproven. Here, current knowledge of ICH pathogenesis and problems arising with respect to exploration of new drug candidates are discussed.
The role of nitric oxide (NO) derived from all three NO synthases (NOSs) in renal lesion formation remains to be fully elucidated. We addressed this point in mice lacking all NOSs. Renal injury was induced by unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO). UUO caused significant renal lesion formation (tubular apoptosis, interstitial fibrosis, and glomerulosclerosis) in wild-type, singly, and triply NOS−/− mice. However, the extents of renal lesion formation were markedly and most accelerated in the triply NOS−/− genotype. UUO also elicited the infiltration of inflammatory macrophages, up-regulation of transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1, and induction of epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) in all of the genotypes; however, the extents were again largest by far in the triply NOS−/− genotype. Importantly, long-term treatment with the angiotensin II type 1 (AT1)-receptor blocker olmesartan significantly prevented the exacerbation of those renal structural changes after UUO in the triply NOS−/− genotype, along with amelioration of the macrophage infiltration, TGF-β1 levels, and EMT. These results provide the first evidence that the complete disruption of all NOS genes results in markedly accelerated renal lesion formation in response to UUO in mice in vivo through the AT1-receptor pathway, demonstrating the critical renoprotective role of all NOSs-derived NO against pathological renal remodeling.
Methylglyoxal (MGO), a metabolite of glucose, accumulates in vascular tissues of a hypertensive animal. In the present study, we examined the effect of MGO on angiotensin (Ang) II–induced contraction of rat carotid artery. Treatment of carotid artery with MGO (420 μM, 30 min) significantly augmented Ang II (0.1 to 30 nM)–induced concentration-dependent contraction. The effect was abolished by the removal of endothelium. BQ-123 (1, 5 μM), an endothelin A–receptor blocker, had no effect on the MGO-induced enhancement of Ang II–induced contraction. AL8810 (1 μM), a prostaglandin F2α–receptor blocker, or SQ29548 (1 μM), a thromboxane A2–receptor blocker, was also ineffective. However, tempol (10 μM), a superoxide scavenger, and catalase (5000 U/mL), which metabolizes hydrogen peroxide to water, significantly prevented the effect of MGO. Combined MGO and Ang II treatment increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. Apocynin (10 μM) or gp91ds-tat (3 μM), an inhibitor of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase, significantly prevented the effect of MGO. Gp91ds-tat or an Ang II type 1–receptor (AT1R) blocker, losartan (10 μM), prevented the MGO-mediated increased ROS production. The present study revealed that MGO augments Ang II–induced contraction by increasing AT1R-mediated NADPH oxidase–derived superoxide and hydrogen peroxide production in endothelium of rat carotid artery.
In the present study, we investigated cardioprotective effects of salidroside, isolated from Rhodiola rosea L, on oxygen–glucose deprivation (OGD)-induced cardiomyocyte death and ischemic injury evoked by acute myocardial infarction (AMI) in rats. Pretreatment with salidroside notably ameliorated cell viability losses in a dose-dependant manner and in parallel it alleviated morphologic injury detected by electron microscopy. Mechanistically, diminished OGD-induced cardiomyocyte apoptosis was shown in salidroside-pretreated cardiomyocytes, in accordance with minimal reactive oxygen species (ROS) burst. Moreover, salidroside markedly upregulated the Bcl-2/Bax ratio and preserved mitochondrial transmembrane potential (ΔΨm). Salidroside administration also inhibited myocardial apoptosis in AMI rats by increasing phosphorylation of Akt and decreasing activation of caspase-3. These findings suggest that salidroside reduced ischemia-mediated myocardial damage. Salidroside therefore has potential to be a promising drug for preventing and treating myocardial ischemic diseases.
Liposome-encapsulated hemoglobin (LEH) has been developed as a blood substitute. In spite of its size (1/30 – 1/40 of erythrocytes), LEH has an oxygen-carrying capacity comparable to erythrocytes. Thus, LEH is expected to carry oxygen into vital organs via collateral routes during ischemia induced by vascular embolism. In the present study, we examined the therapeutic effects of LEH on behavioral impairments in rats after four-vessel occlusion (4VO) for 30 min. In the open-field test, locomotor activity in 4VO rats did not alter 7 days after ischemia. However, in the contextual fear conditioning (CFC) test, the freezing rate was significantly decreased in 4VO rats, although no behavioral changes in the Y-maze test and elevated plus-maze test were observed. Phosphorylation of the cyclic AMP response element-binding protein (CREB) in the hippocampal CA1 region after the CFC test was attenuated. These 4VO-induced impairments were significantly alleviated by the administration of LEH (5 ml/kg, i.v.) during occlusion. Moreover, LEH did not alter hippocampal blood flow and tissue oxygen pressure during 4VO, but it did suppress hyperoxia after ischemia–reperfusion. These findings suggest that LEH, an artificial oxygen carrier, could be a novel therapeutic agent for brain dysfunction after acute cerebral ischemia.
Ceramide, a key molecule in the metabolism of sphingolipids, is converted by ceramidase to sphingosine, and phosphorylated by ceramide kinase to form ceramide-1-phosphate (C1P). In this study, we improved on a method of thin-layer chromatography using a fluorescent ceramide, 4-nitrobenzo-2-oxa-1,3-diazole–labeled C6-ceramide (NBD-ceramide) by adding another step for separation of extracted ceramide metabolites by lipophilicity, and determined levels of C1P, caproic acid, sphingomyelin, and glucosylceramide simultaneously. Also we found that 1) treatment of NBD-ceramide–labeled cells (human lung adenocarcinoma A549 cells and Chinese hamster ovary cells) with Na3VO4 increased the amount of NBD-C1P formed within 30 min, 2) the treatment increased production of NBD-caproic acid, a counterpart of sphingosine, by ceramidase within 2 h, 3) expression of ceramide kinase enhanced the Na3VO4-induced formation of NBD-C1P, and tyrosine kinase inhibitors (herbimycin and genistein) decreased the response, 4) the production of NBD-caproic acid in A549 cells was inhibited by genistein, and 5) the responses for 2 h after Na3VO4 treatment were accompanied by a decrease in the production of NBD-sphingomyelin, not a loss of NBD-ceramide. The improved thin-layer chromatography method was useful for the simultaneous determination of enzymatic activities for ceramide metabolism in cells.
Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), a family of zinc-endopeptidases, have a critical role in the pathophysiological responses in damaged brains. MMPs are up-regulated in brain pathologies. To clarify the extracellular signals involved in brain MMP production, the effects of endothelins (ETs), a family of vasoconstricting peptides, were examined. Intracerebroventricular administration of 500 pmol/day Ala1,3,11,15-ET-1, an ETB-receptor agonist, increased the mRNAs of MMP2 and MMP9 in rat hippocampus and cerebrum. Ala1,3,11,15-ET-1 did not affect mRNA levels of MMP 1, 12, and 14. Administration of Ala1,3,11,15-ET-1 for 7 days also increased the protein content and proteolytic activities of MMP2 and MMP9 in the cerebrum. Immunohistochemical observations showed that astrocytes in the hippocampus and the cerebrum of ET-infused rats had MMP2 and MMP9 reactivities. In rat cultured astrocytes, both Ala1,3,11,15-ET-1 (100 nM) and ET-1 (100 nM) increased MMP2 and MMP9 mRNAs. ET-1 stimulated the protein releases and the proteolytic activities of MMP2 and MMP9 from cultured astrocytes. BQ788, an ETB antagonist, inhibited the effects of ET-1 on astrocytic MMP2 and MMP9. The ET-induced expression of MMP9, but not MMP2, was inhibited by pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate, proteasome inhibitor I, and MG132. These results suggest that ET stimulates astrocytic MMP2 and MMP9 production through ETB receptors.
Sleep deprivation induces several negative effects on behavior, emotion, attention, and learning ability. Sleep appears to be particularly important during adolescent brain development. In the present study, we examined the effects of sleep deprivation on behavior and hypothalamic neurotransmission including histamine and orexin neurons in adolescent rats using the treadmill method. Adolescent male rats were divided into three groups: treadmill sleep-deprived, treadmill control, and cage control groups. Energy expenditure, anxiety-like behavior, and locomotor activity were examined among the three groups. Histamine concentration in the cortex and diencephalon and the number of c-Fos–positive neurons in the hypothalamus were also examined. In addition, histamine and orexin neurons in the hypothalamus were simultaneously identified using rat histidine decarboxylase and orexin-A immunohistochemistry, respectively. Both energy expenditure and anxiety-related behavior significantly increased by the experimental 3-day sleep deprivation, while exploratory locomotor activity significantly decreased. Histamine contents did not change in the cortex, but significantly decreased in the diencephalon of sleep-deprived rats. Increased expression of c-Fos–positive neurons, including subgroup histamine and orexin neurons, was observed in the hypothalamus. These findings indicate that sleep deprivation increases energy expenditure and anxiety in adolescent rats and provide evidence for the pivotal role of hypothalamus subgroup histamine and orexin neurons in the behavioral response to sleep deprivation.
An adverse effect of statins, cholesterol-lowering drugs, is contractile dysfunction of skeletal muscles. We investigated the mechanism underlying this effect in cultured myofibers isolated from rats. Fluvastatin (Flv) for 72 h decreased caffeine- and ionomycin-induced contraction of myofibers and Ca2+ release from sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR). Ca2+-shortening curves measured in skinned myofibers indicated that myofibrillar Ca2+ sensitivity was unaffected by Flv. A luciferin–luciferase assay revealed less ATP contents in Flv-treated myofibers. Among mevalonate metabolites, including geranylgeranylpyrophosphate (GGPP), farnesylpyrophosphate (FPP), coenzyme Q9, and coenzyme Q10, only GGPP prevented Flv-induced ATP reduction. A selective Rab geranylgeranyltransferase (GG transferase) inhibitor, perillyl alcohol (POH), and a specific GG transferase-I inhibitor, GGTI-298, both mimicked Flv in decreasing ATP and contraction. Mitochondrial membrane potential was decreased by Flv, and this effect was rescued by GGPP and mimicked by POH and GGTI-298. An endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-to-Golgi traffic inhibitor, brefeldin A, and a Rho inhibitor, membrane permeable exoenzyme C3 transferase, both decreased ATP. We conclude that statin-induced contractile dysfunction is due to reduced Ca2+ release from SR and reduced ATP levels in myofibers with damaged mitochondria. GGPP depletion and subsequent inactivation of Rab1, possibly along with Rho, may underlie the mitochondrial damage by Flv.
The role of renal dendritic cells (DCs) in renal fibrosis is unknown. The present study was conducted to examine the relative role of renal DCs and macrophages in the development of renal fibrosis in murine obstructive nephropathy. CD11c-diphtheria toxin receptor (DTR) transgenic mice and CD11b-DTR transgenic mice were subjected to unilateral ureteral obstruction. To conditionally and selectively deplete DCs or macrophages, DT was given to these mice and kidneys were harvested on day 5. Ureteral obstruction elicited renal fibrosis characterized by tubulointerstitial collagen III deposition and accumulation of α-smooth muscle actin–positive cells. Flow cytometric analysis revealed a marked increase in cell counts of F4/80+ macrophages, F4/80+ DCs, as well as neutrophils and T cells in the obstructed kidney. DT administration to CD11c-DTR mice led to selective depletion of renal CD11c+ DCs, but did not affect renal fibrosis. In contrast, administration of DT to CD11b-DTR mice resulted in ablation of all monocyte lineages including macrophages and DCs and attenuated renal fibrosis. Our results do not support the role of renal DCs, but confirm the importance of monocyte lineage cells other than DCs in the development of the early phase of renal fibrosis following ureteral obstruction in mice.