1 Section of Molecular Pathology, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet2 Brakebusch Group, BRIC Research Groups, BRIC, Københavns Universitet3 Section of Teaching, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet4 Department of Biomedical Sciences, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet5 Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.6 Section of Molecular Pathology, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet7 Section of Teaching, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet
Transient forebrain ischemia (TFI) leads to hippocampal CA1 pyramidal cell death which is aggravated by glucocorticoids (GC). It is unknown how GC affect apoptosis and necrosis in cerebral ischemia. We therefore investigated the co-localization of activated caspase-3 (casp-3) with apoptosis- and necrosis-like cell death morphologies in CA1 of rats treated with dexamethasone prior to TFI (DPTI). In addition, apoptosis- (casp-9, casp-3, casp-3-cleaved PARP and cleaved α-spectrin 145/150 and 120kDa) and necrosis-related (calpain-specific casp-9 cleavage, μ-calpain upregulation and cleaved α-spectrin 145/150kDa) cell death mechanisms were investigated by Western blot analysis. DPTI expedited CA1 neuronal death from day 4 to day 1 and increased the magnitude of CA1 neuronal death from 66.2% to 91.3% at day 7. Furthermore, DPTI decreased the overall (days 1-7) percentage of dying neurons displaying apoptosis-like morphology from 4.7% to 0.3% and, conversely, increased the percentage of neurons with necrosis-like morphology from 95.3% to 99.7%. In animals subjected to TFI without dexamethasone (ischemia-only), 7.4% of all dying CA1 neurons were casp-3-immunoreactive (IR), of which 3.1% co-localized with apoptosis-like and 4.3% with necrosis-like changes. By contrast, DPTI decreased the percentage of dying neurons with casp-3 IR to 1.4%, of which 0.3% co-localized with apoptosis-like changes and 1.1% with necrosis-like changes. Western blot analysis from DPTI animals showed a significant elevation of μ-calpain, a calpain-produced necrosis-related casp-9 fragment (25kDa) and cleavage of α-spectrin into 145/150kDa fragments at day 4, whereas in ischemia-only animals a significant increase of casp-3-cleaved PARP, cleavage of α-spectrin into 145/150 and 120kDa fragments was detected at day 7. We conclude that DPTI, in addition to augmenting and expediting CA1 neuronal death, causes a shift from apoptosis-like cell death to necrosis involving μ-calpain activation.