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Exp Neurol. 2012 Nov;238(1):79-88. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2012.08.009. Epub 2012 Aug 19.

Theophylline regulates inflammatory and neurotrophic factor signals in functional recovery after C2-hemisection in adult rats.

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Wayne State University, School of Medicine, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Detroit, MI 48202, USA.


Recovery of respiratory activity in an upper cervical hemisection model (C2H) of spinal cord injury (SCI) can be induced by systemic theophylline administration 24-48 h after injury. The objectives in the present study are (1) to identify pro-inflammatory and neurotrophic factors expressed after C2H and (2) molecular signals involved in functional recovery. Four groups of adult female rats classified as (i) sham (SH) controls, (ii) subjected to a left C2 hemisection (C2H) only, (iii) C2H rats administered theophylline for 3 consecutive days 2 days after C2H (C2H-T day 5) and (iv) C2H rats treated with theophylline for 3 consecutive days 2 days after C2H and then weaned for 12 days (C2H-T day 17) prior to assessment of respiratory function and molecular analysis were employed. Corresponding sham controls, C2H untreated (vehicle only controls) and C2H treated (theophylline) rats were sacrificed, C3-C6 spinal cord segments quickly dissected and left (ipsilateral) hemi spinal cord and right (contralateral) hemi spinal cord were separately harvested 2 days post surgery. Sham operated and C2H untreated-controls corresponding to C2H-T day 5 and C2H-T day 17 rats, respectively, were prepared similarly. Messenger RNA levels for pro-inflammatory genes (TXNIP, IL-1β, TNF-α and iNOS) and neurotrophic and survival factors (BDNF, GDNF, and Bcl2) were analyzed by real time quantitative PCR. Gene expression pattern was unaltered in SH rats. TXNIP, iNOS, BDNF, GDNF and Bcl2 mRNA levels were significantly increased in the ipsilateral hemi spinal cord in C2H rats. BDNF, GDNF and Bcl2 levels remained elevated in the ipsilateral hemi spinal cord in C2H-T day 5 rats. In this same group, there was further enhancement in TXNIP and IL-1β while iNOS returned to basal levels. Theophylline increased DNA binding activity of transcription factors - cyclic AMP responsive element (CRE) binding protein (CREB) and pro-inflammatory NF-κB. Messenger RNA levels for all genes returned to basal levels in C2H-T day 17 rats. However, BDNF mRNA levels remained significantly elevated after weaning from the drug. Our results suggest that enhanced resolution of early inflammatory processes and expression of pro-survival factors may underlie theophylline-induced respiratory recovery. The results identify potential targets for gene and drug therapies.

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