INTRODUCTION: Bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) injection prior to hypoxia-ischaemia significantly increases hypoxia-ischaemic brain injury in 7-day-old (P7) rats. In addition, therapeutic hypothermia (HT) is not neuroprotective in this setting. However, the mechanistic aspects of this therapeutic failure have yet to be elucidated. This study was designed to investigate the underlying cellular mechanisms in this double-hit model of infection-sensitised hypoxia-ischaemic brain injury.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: P7 rat pups were injected with either vehicle or LPS, and after a 4-hour delay were exposed to left carotid ligation followed by global hypoxia inducing a unilateral stroke-like hypoxia-ischaemic injury. Pups were randomised to the following treatments: (1) vehicle-treated pups receiving normothermia treatment (NT) (Veh-NT; n = 40), (2) LPS-treated pups receiving NT treatment (LPS-NT; n = 40), (3) vehicle-treated pups receiving HT treatment (Veh-HT; n = 38) and (4) LPS-treated pups receiving HT treatment (LPS-HT; n = 35). On postnatal day 8 or 14, Western blot analysis or immunohistochemistry was performed to examine neuronal death, apoptosis, astrogliosis and microglial activation.
RESULTS: LPS sensitisation prior to hypoxia-ischaemia significantly exacerbated apoptotic neuronal loss. NeuN, a neuronal biomarker, was significantly reduced in the LPS-NT and LPS-HT groups (p = 0.008). Caspase-3 activation was significantly increased in the LPS-sensitised groups (p < 0.001). Additionally, a significant increase in astrogliosis (glial fibrillary acidic expression, p < 0.001) was seen, as well as a trend towards increased microglial activation (Iba 1 expression, p = 0.051) in LPS-sensitised animals. Treatment with HT did not counteract these changes.
CONCLUSION: LPS-sensitised hypoxia-ischaemic brain injury in newborn rats is mediated through neuronal death, apoptosis, astrogliosis and microglial activation. In this double-hit model, treatment with HT does not ameliorate these changes.