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J Neurotrauma. 2004 Sep;21(9):1240-54.

Higher calpastatin levels correlate with resistance to calpain-mediated proteolysis and neuronal apoptosis in juvenile rats after spinal cord injury.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC 29425, USA.


While the average age for patients admitted with spinal cord injury is 32 years, patients under the age of 16 account for 5% of spinal cord injured persons. For these younger patients, an increased mortality up to 24 h post-injury has been reported, however, survivors may regain more function than their adult counterparts, suggesting that age may play a role in injury tolerance. While the use of growth factors as a therapy for spinal cord injury is well researched, the response of the developing cord to secondary injury has not been thoroughly investigated. Following spinal cord injury, Ca(2+) influx can activate enzymes such as calpain, a Ca(2+)-dependent protease, which plays a role in the pathogenesis of spinal cord injury in rats. The present investigation revealed that following spinal cord injury, calpain upregulation was significantly less (15.3%) in the 21-day-old rats than in either 45-day-old (70%) or 90-day-old (99.6%) rats, as shown by Western blot and in situ immunofluorescent studies. Expression of the endogenous calpain inhibitor, calpastatin, was significantly higher in juvenile rats than adult rats. Juvenile rats with spinal cord injury also showed a reduced Bax:Bcl-2 ratio (4:1 vs. 6:1), reduced caspase-3 staining, reduced myelin loss (3% vs. 18%), and less neuronal DNA damage, as compared to older rats. These results suggest that increased calpastatin levels found in juvenile rats muted calpain activity and neuronal apoptosis, following spinal cord injury.

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