Our current understanding on brain death remains limited despite its clinical importance. This study evaluated whether the proteome expressed in the rat rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM), a neural substrate that our laboratory identified previously to be intimately related to brain death, is uniquely different from other brain areas, using the cerebral cortex, which is defunct under persistent vegetative state for comparison. We found that a group of antioxidant proteins, including members of the peroxiredoxin (Prx) family (Prx-1, Prx-2, Prx-5, Prx-6), thioredoxin and mitochondrial manganese superoxide dismutase, exhibited significantly higher protein and mRNA expression levels in RVLM when compared to cerebral cortex. Tissue oxygen, ATP contents and ATP synthase subunits α and β in RVLM were also significantly elevated. On the other hand, protein and mRNA levels of members of the ubiquitin-proteasome system, including proteasome subunit α type-1, ubiquitin, uniquitin-conjugating enzyme E2 N, ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal hydrolase isozyme L1 and L3, were comparable in both brain regions. We conclude that a significantly elevated level of antioxidant proteins and mRNA in RVLM is consistent with the exhibition of higher tissue oxygen tension and metabolic energy production in this neural substrate, which together constitute a safeguard mechanism against brain death.
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