E-64-d prevents both calpain upregulation and apoptosis in the lesion and penumbra following spinal cord injury in rats

Brain Res. 2000 Jun 9;867(1-2):80-9. doi: 10.1016/s0006-8993(00)02260-5.


Calpain, a Ca(2+)-dependent cysteine protease, has been implicated in cytoskeletal protein degradation and neurodegeneration in the lesion and adjacent areas following spinal cord injury (SCI). To attenuate apoptosis or programmed cell death (PCD) in SCI, we treated injured rats with E-64-d, a cell permeable and selective inhibitor of calpain. SCI was induced on T12 by the weight-drop (40 g-cm force) method. Within 15 min, E-64-d (1 mg/kg) in 1.5% DMSO was administered i.v. to the SCI rats. Following 24 h treatment, a 5-cm long spinal cord section with the lesion in the center was collected. The spinal cord section was divided equally into five 1-cm segments (S1: distant rostral, S2: near rostral, S3: lesion or injury, S4: near caudal and S5: distant caudal) for analysis. Determination of mRNA levels by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) indicated that ratios of bax/bcl-2 and calpain/calpastatin were increased in spinal cord segments from injured rats compared to controls. Degradation of the 68-kD neurofilament protein and internucleosomal DNA fragmentation were also increased. All of these changes were maximally increased in the lesion and gradually decreased in the adjacent areas of SCI rats, while largely undetectable in E-64-d treated rats and absent in sham controls. The results indicate that apoptosis in rat SCI appears to be associated with calpain activity which can be attenuated by the calpain inhibitor E-64-d.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Calpain / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Calpain / metabolism*
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • DNA Fragmentation / drug effects
  • DNA Fragmentation / physiology
  • DNA Primers
  • Female
  • Gene Expression / physiology
  • Leucine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Leucine / pharmacology
  • Neurofilament Proteins / metabolism
  • Nucleosomes / drug effects
  • Nucleosomes / physiology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / drug therapy*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / enzymology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / pathology
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein


  • Bax protein, rat
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors
  • DNA Primers
  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • Nucleosomes
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • RNA, Messenger
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • neurofilament protein NF 68
  • calpastatin
  • Calpain
  • Leucine
  • aloxistatin