Transient global ischemia results in selective neuronal damage of hippocampal CA1 neurons. Five minutes of bilateral common carotid artery occlusion, in the Mongolian gerbil, effectively restricts forebrain blood flow, resulting in a delayed neuronal death of CA1 pyramidal cells. While there is a delay of approximately 72 h in the appearance of cell death, markers related to the mechanism of ischemic death become apparent well before neurons die. Ischemia-induced increases in the cell-death-promoting protein, bax, may disrupt the bcl-2/bax ratio necessary for normal neuronal functioning and thus promote transient ischemic death. In order to locally maintain this critical bcl-2/bax ratio and thus protect CA1 neurons from delayed neuronal death, a herpes simplex viral (HSV) vector was used to selectively introduce human bcl-2, under the control of the herpes IE 4/5 promoter, into the CA1 region of the gerbil hippocampus. Twenty-four hours prior to ischemia surgery, 1 microl of HSVbcl-2 was infused unilaterally into the CA1 region at a rate of 2 nl/min. Seventy-two hours after ischemia the animals were sacrificed and processed using Nissl, silver degeneration, and immunohistochemical (anti-human bcl-2) staining. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated both glial and neuronal bcl-2 expression around the HSVbcl-2 infusion site. The evaluation following silver degeneration staining indicated a further degeneration of CA1 neurons in the immediate area of the viral vector infusion. This damage seems to be the result of cellular debris associated with the processing of the viral amplicons. Silver degeneration staining is not present in the areas that demonstrate bcl-2 staining. These neurons appear to have been rescued from ischemic damage. This result was confirmed using the Nissl staining. Therefore, by altering the local ratio of bcl-2/bax using the HSVbcl-2 vector one may protect CA1 pyramidal cell from the delayed neuronal death of transient global ischemia.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.