Ischemic brain injuries are leading causes of morbidity and mortality to the aging population, but current therapy is poor in part because of our limited understanding of pathogenic mechanisms leading to neuronal loss. A critical trigger of the injury process seems to be acute energy loss, leading to membrane depolarization, excessive release of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate and neuronal Ca2+ accumulation. A large and persistent Ca2+ rise ("Ca2+ deregulation") seems to be indicative of neuronal death. Recent evidence implicates critical contributions of another divalent cation, Zn2+, which is abundant in the brain and is normally very tightly regulated. However after ischemia or prolonged seizures, free Zn2+ accumulates in neurons, and observations that Zn2+ chelation is protective implicates a role in neuronal death. Culture studies have revealed that exogenously applied Zn2+ can enter neurons and accumulate in mitochondria and powerfully disrupt their function. However, little is known about mechanisms of injury caused by the accumulation of endogenous Zn2+ in native brain tissues. The proposed project thus seeks to address the following hypothesis: Accumulation of Zn2+ in hippocampal pyramidal neurons contributes critically to the initiation of ischemic neuronal injury, in part via deleterious interactions with mitochondria. Preliminary studies indicate that endogenous Zn2+ accumulates in pyramidal neurons in hippocampal slices subjected to oxygen glucose deprivation (OGD), prior to detectable Ca2+ accumulation, and that the Zn2+ appears to enter mitochondria and contribute to the induction of Ca2+ deregulation and cell death.
Aim I will apply fluorescent imaging techniques (using both single cell and bulk loaded indicators) to acute hippocampal slices to examine Zn2+ accumulation in CA1 neurons during OGD, examine its interactions with mitochondria and determine its contributions to Ca2+ deregulation and cell death during acute OGD, and the subsequent reperfusion period. This key aim will seek to provide the first rigorous examination of the above hypothesis, and examine a range of interventions that may offer protection while helping to elucidate the sequence of events involved in the triggering and expression stages of injury.
Aim II will use a range of approaches to determine the sources and routes of the injurious Zn2+ accumulation. These issues of "where the Zn2+ comes from" are complex, yet crucial to development of optimal interventions.
Aim III will use organotypic slice culture models to examine roles of Zn2+ in the triggering of delayed neurodegeneration (up to 3 days after the OGD), in order to examine downstream injury processes and test therapeutic interventions that may offer protection when delivered well after the ischemia. It is hoped that these studies will provide new insights as to the sequence of events involved in the triggering of ischemic neuronal injury which will lead to new and effective neuroprotective strategies.
Despite being a cause of tremendous morbidity to the aging population, treatment of stroke is presently poor in part because of limited understanding of the events set in motion by ischemia that culminate in loss of function and nerve cell death. In this study, nerve cells in slices of mouse brain will be examined during and after simulated ischemia to directly examine movements and effects of the metal ion, zinc, which seems to play critical yet presently poorly understood in the triggering of ischemic brain injury. It is hoped that these studies will provide new insights into critical early events in ischemia that will suggest new approaches for new and better treatments to decrease brain damage.
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