With parallels to concussive mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) occurring in humans, anesthetized mice subjected to a single 30 g weight drop mTBI event to the right parietal cortex exhibited significant diffuse neuronal degeneration that was accompanied by delayed impairments in recognition and spatial memory. To elucidate the involvement of reversible p53-dependent apoptosis in this neuronal loss and associated cognitive deficits, mice were subjected to experimental mTBI followed by the systemic administration of the tetrahydrobenzothiazole p53 inactivator, PFT-α, or vehicle. Neuronal loss was quantified immunohistochemically at 72 hr. post-injury by the use of fluoro-Jade B and NeuN within the dentate gyrus on both sides of the brain, and recognition and spatial memory were assessed by novel object recognition and Y-maze paradigms at 7 and 30 days post injury. Systemic administration of a single dose of PFT-α 1 hr. post-injury significantly ameliorated both neuronal cell death and cognitive impairments, which were no different from sham control animals. Cellular studies on human SH-SY5Y cells and rat primary neurons challenged with glutamate excitotoxicity and H2O2 induced oxidative stress, confirmed the ability of PFT-α and a close analog to protect against these TBI associated mechanisms mediating neuronal loss. These studies suggest that p53-dependent apoptotic mechanisms underpin the neuronal and cognitive losses accompanying mTBI, and that these are potentially reversible by p53 inactivation.
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