Engagement of ubiquitination and de-ubiquitination at rostral ventrolateral medulla in experimental brain death

Carol H. Wu, Julie Y. Chan, Jimmy Li Jer Chou, Samuel H. Chan, Alice Y. Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Whereas brain death is a vitally important clinical phenomenon, our contemporary understanding on its underlying cellular mechanisms remains elusive. This study evaluated whether the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) in the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM), a neural substrate that our laboratory identified previously to be intimately related to brain death, is engaged in this fatal process. Methods: We performed proteomics, Western Blot, real-time PCR, ELISA and pharmacological experiments in conjunction with a clinically relevant experimental endotoxemia model of brain death based on intravenous administration of Escherichia coli lipopolysaccharide in adult male Sprague-Dawley rats. Results: Proteomics, Western blot and enzyme activity analyses demonstrated that polyubiquitination was preserved and de-ubiquitination by ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase isozyme-L1 (UCH-L1) was sustained, alongside increased monoubiquitin availability or proteasome activity in RVLM over the course of experimental endotoxemia. However, real-time PCR revealed no significant alteration in proteasome subunit alpha type-1, ubiquitin or UCH-L1 at mRNA level. Functionally, whereas microinjection into the bilateral RVLM of proteasome inhibitors (lactacystin or proteasome inhibitor II) potentiated survival, an inhibitor of ubiquitin-recycling (ubiquitin aldehyde) or an UCH-L1 inhibitor exacerbated mortality. Conclusions: We proposed previously that the progression towards brain death entails a tug-of-war between pro-death and pro-life programs in RVLM. It is conceivable that ubiquitination or de-ubiquitination in RVLM participate in brain death by regulating the degradation of the proteins involved in those programs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number48
JournalJournal of biomedical science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Biochemistry, medical
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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