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J Neurotrauma. 2002 May;19(5):639-51.

Temporal and segmental distribution of constitutive and inducible nitric oxide synthases after traumatic spinal cord injury: effect of aminoguanidine treatment.

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The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Florida 33101, USA.


Nitric oxide (NO) has been shown to play an important role in the pathophysiology of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and cerebral ischemia. However, its contribution to the pathogenesis of traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) remains to be clarified. This study determined the time course of constitutive and inducible nitric oxide synthases (cNOS and iNOS, respectively) after SCI. Rats underwent moderate SCI at T10 using the NYU impactor device and were allowed to survive for 3, 6, or 24 h and 3 days after SCI (n = 5 in each group). For the determination of enzymatic activities, spinal cords were dissected into five segments, including levels rostral and caudal (remote) to the injury site. Other rats were perfusion fixed for the immunohistochemical localization of iNOS protein levels. cNOS activity was significantly decreased at 3 and 6 h within the traumatized T10 segment and at 3, 6, and 24 h at the rostral (T9) level (p < 0.05). Rostral (T8) and caudal (T11, T12) to the injury site cNOS activity was also decreased at 3 h after injury (p < 0.05). However, cNOS activity returned to control levels within 6 h at T8, T11 and T12 and at one day at T10 and T9 segments. iNOS enzymatic activity was elevated at all time points tested (p < 0.05), with the most robust increase observed at 24 h. Immunostaining for iNOS at 24 h revealed that a significant cellular source of iNOS protein appeared to be invading polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNLs). To assess the functional consequences of iNOS inhibition, aminoguanidine treatment was initiated 5 min after SCI and rats tested using the BBB open field locomotor score. Treated rats demonstrated significantly improved hindlimb function up to 7 weeks after SCI. Histopathological analysis of contusion volume showed that aminoguanidine treatment decreased lesion volume by 37% (p < 0.05). In conclusion, these results indicate that (1) cNOS and iNOS activities are regionally and temporally affected after moderate SCI, (2) the early accumulation of PMNLs are a potentially significant source of NO-induced cytotoxic products, and (3) acute aminoguanidine treatment significantly improves functional and histopathological outcome after SCI.

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