Background: Despite its clinical importance, a dearth of information exists on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underpin brain stem death. A suitable neural substrate for mechanistic delineation on brain stem death resides in the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM) because it is the origin of a life-and-death signal that sequentially increases (pro-life) and decreases (pro-death) to reflect the advancing central cardiovascular regulatory dysfunction during the progression towards brain stem death in critically ill patients. The present study evaluated the hypothesis that heme oxygnase-1 (HO-1) may play a pro-life role as an interposing signal between hypoxiainducible factor-1 (HIF-1) and nitric oxide synthase I (NOS I)/protein kinase G (PKG) cascade in RVLM, which sustains central cardiovascular regulatory functions during brain stem death. Methods: We performed cardiovascular, pharmacological, biochemical and confocal microscopy experiments in conjunction with an experimental model of brain stem death that employed microinjection of the organophosphate insecticide mevinphos (Mev; 10 nmol) bilaterally into RVLM of adult male Sprague-Dawley rats. Results: Western blot analysis coupled with laser scanning confocal microscopy revealed that augmented HO-1 expression that was confined to the cytoplasm of RVLM neurons occurred preferentially during the pro-life phase of experimental brain stem death and was antagonized by immunoneutralization of HIF-1a or HIF-1 b in RVLM. On the other hand, the cytoplasmic presence of HO-2 in RVLM neurons manifested insignificant changes during both phases. Furthermore, immunoneutralization of HO-1 or knockdown of ho-1 gene in RVLM blunted the augmented life-and-death signals exhibited during the pro-life phase. Those pretreatments also blocked the upregulated prolife NOS I/PKG signaling without affecting the pro-death NOS II/peroxynitrite cascade in RVLM. Conclusions: We conclude that transcriptional upregulation of HO-1 on activation by HIF-1 in RVLM plays a preferential pro-life role by sustaining central cardiovascular regulatory functions during brain stem death via upregulation of NOS I/PKG signaling pathway. Our results further showed that the pro-dead NOS II/peroxynitrite cascade in RVLM is not included in this repertoire of cellular events.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Molecular Biology
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Cell Biology
- Biochemistry, medical
- Pharmacology (medical)