Hypoxia-ischemia (H-I) in the developing brain results in brain injury with prominent features of both apoptosis and necrosis. A peptide-based pan-caspase inhibitor is neuroprotective against neonatal H-I brain injury, suggesting a central role of caspases in brain injury. Because previously studied peptide-based caspase inhibitors are not potent and are only partially selective, the exact contribution of specific caspases and other proteases to injury after H-I is not clear. In this study, we explored the neuroprotective effects of a small, reversible caspase-3 inhibitor M826. M826 selectively and potently inhibited both caspase-3 enzymatic activity and apoptosis in cultured cells in vitro. In a rat model of neonatal H-I, M826 blocked caspase-3 activation and cleavage of its substrates, which begins 6 h and peaks 24 h after H-I. Although M826 significantly reduced DNA fragmentation and brain tissue loss, it did not prevent calpain activation in the cortex. This activation, which is associated with excitotoxic/necrotic cell injury, occurred within 30 min to 2 h after H-I even in the presence of M826. Similar to calpain activation, we found evidence of caspase-2 processing within 30 min to 2 h after H-I that was not affected by M826. Caspase-2 processing appeared to be secondary to calpain-mediated cleavage and was not associated with caspase-2 activation. These data suggest that caspase-3 specifically contributes to delayed cell death and brain injury after neonatal H-I and that calpain activation is associated with and likely a marker for the early component of excitotoxic/necrotic brain injury previously demonstrated in this model.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology