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Cell Death Differ. 2001 Sep;8(9):921-32.

Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitors attenuate necrotic but not apoptotic neuronal death in experimental models of cerebral ischemia.

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  • 1Dipartimento di Farmacologia Preclinica e Clinica, Università di Firenze, Viale G. Pieraccini 6, I-50139 Florence, Italy.


An excessive activation of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) has been proposed to play a key role in post-ischemic neuronal death. We examined the neuroprotective effects of the PARP inhibitors benzamide, 6(5H)-phenanthridinone, and 3,4-dihydro-5-[4-1(1-piperidinyl)buthoxy]-1(2H)-isoquinolinone in three rodent models of cerebral ischemia. Increasing concentrations of the three PARP inhibitors attenuated neuronal injury induced by 60 min oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD) in mixed cortical cell cultures, but were unable to reduce CA1 pyramidal cell loss in organotypic hippocampal slices exposed to 30 min OGD or in gerbils following 5 min bilateral carotid occlusion. We then examined the necrotic and apoptotic features of OGD-induced neurodegeneration in cortical cells and hippocampal slices using biochemical and morphological approaches. Cortical cells exposed to OGD released lactate dehydrogenase into the medium and displayed ultrastructural features of necrotic cell death, whereas no caspase-3 activation nor morphological characteristics of apoptosis were observed at any time point after OGD. In contrast, a marked increase in caspase-3 activity was observed in organotypic hippocampal slices after OGD, together with fluorescence and electron microscope evidence of apoptotic neuronal death in the CA1 subregion. Moreover, the caspase inhibitor Z-VAD-FMK reduced OGD-induced CA1 pyramidal cell loss. These findings suggest that PARP overactivation may be an important mechanism leading to post-ischemic neurodegeneration of the necrotic but not of the apoptotic type.

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