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Neurol Res. 2001 Mar-Apr;23(2-3):139-43.

Acute alterations of endothelin-1 and iNOS expression and control of the brain microcirculation after head trauma.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, School of Medicine, Wayne State University, 540 East Canfield Ave., Detroit, MI 48201, USA.


The biosynthetic equilibrium between endothelin-1 (ET-1, a vasoconstricting agent) and nitric oxide (NO, a gas with vasodilating effects) is thought to play a role in the autoregulation of microvessel contractility and maintenance of adequate perfusion after traumatic brain injury. ET-1 is a constitutively expressed peptide, while the gene that encodes for the inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS, an enzyme responsible for the synthesis of excessive and toxic amounts of NO) is solely activated after brain injury. We employed the Marmarou acceleration impact model of brain injury (400 g from 2 m) to study the effect of closed head trauma on the rat brain microcirculation. Following head trauma we analyzed changes of cerebral cortex perfusion using laser Doppler flowmetry and ultrastructural alterations of endothelial cells. We temporally correlated these changes with the expression of ET-1 (immunocytochemistry) and iNOS (in situ hybridization) to assess the role of these vasoactive agents in vascular contractility and cortical perfusion. Cortical perfusion was reduced by approximately 50% during the second hour as compared to values during preceding time points after TBI, reached a peak minutes before 3 h, and subsequently showed a trend towards normalization. A significant reduction in the lumen of microvessels and severe distortion of their shape were observed after the fourth hour post-trauma. At the same time period ET-1 expression in endothelial cells was stronger than in microvessels of control animals. ET-1 expression was further increased at 24 h after TBI. iNOS mRNA synthesis was strongly upregulated in the same cells at 4 h but was undetectable at 24 h post trauma. Our combined functional, cellular and molecular approach supports the notion that ET-1 and iNOS are expressed differentially in time within individual endothelial cells of cortical microvessels for the control of cortical blood flow following closed head trauma. This differential expression further indicates a reciprocal interaction in the synthesis of these two molecules which may underlie the control of microvascular autoregulation.

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