Background: Ischemic stroke, an acute neurological injury lacking an effective therapy, is a leading cause of death worldwide. The unmet need in stroke research is to identify viable therapeutic targets and to understand their interplay during cerebral ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury.
Objective: To explore the protective effects and molecular mechanism of NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME) in cerebral ischemia-reperfusion injury-induced blood-brain barrier (BBB) dysfunction.
Methods: Two hundred fifty-six rats were randomly assigned to a sham operation group, I/R group, and I/R with L-NAME treatment group. Brain water content was determined by calculating dry/wet weight. The permeability of the BBB was observed using an electron microscope and by determining the Evans Blue leakage from brain tissue on the ischemic side. The expression of brain MMP-9 and GFAP was determined using an immunohistochemical method. The expression of ZO-1 protein was determined by western blotting.
Results: We found that L-NAME remarkably attenuated the permeability of the BBB after I/R as assessed by Evans Blue leakage and brain water content (p < 0.05). This was further confirmed by examination of the ultrastructural morphology of the BBB using a transmission electron microscope. Furthermore, we found that expression of the zonae occludens-1 (ZO-1) was decreased in endothelial cells, and expression of MMP-9 and GFAP was increased in the basement membrane and astrocyte end-feet in vehicle control groups, respectively, but these changes could be prevented by L-NAME pretreatment.
Conclusion: These results suggested that the neuroprotective effects of L-NAME against BBB damage induced by I/R might be related to the upregulation of tight junction proteins and inhibition of MMP-9 and GFAP expression. L-NAME can be used as a potential MMP-9-based multiple targeting therapeutic strategy in cerebral I/R injury.
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