Neuroprotective effects of novel small peptides in vitro and after brain injury

Neuropharmacology. 2005 Sep;49(3):410-24. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2005.04.001.


Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) and TRH analogues have been reported to be neuroprotective in experimental models of spinal cord injury and head injury. We have previously shown that a diketopiperazine structurally related to the TRH metabolite cyclo-his-pro reduces neuronal cell death in vitro and in vivo. Here we report the neuroprotective activity of other cyclic dipeptides in multiple in vitro models of neuronal injury and after controlled cortical impact (CCI) in mice. Using primary neuronal cultures, three novel dipeptides were compared to the previously reported diketopiperazine as well as to vehicle controls; each of the compounds reduced cell death after direct physical trauma or trophic withdrawal. Two of these peptides also protected against glutamate toxicity and beta-amyloid-induced injury; the latter also strongly inhibited glutamate-induced increases in intracellular calcium. Treatment with each of the test compounds resulted in highly significant improvement of motor and cognitive recovery after CCI, as well as markedly reducing lesion volumes as shown by high field magnetic resonance imaging. DNA microarray studies following fluid percussion induced traumatic brain injury (TBI) in rats showed that treatment with one of these dipeptides after injury significantly down-regulated expression of mRNAs for cell cycle proteins, aquaporins, cathepsins and calpain in ipsilateral cortex and/or hippocampus, while up-regulating expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, hypoxia-inducible factor and several heat-shock proteins. Many of these mRNA expression changes were paralleled at the protein level. The fact that these small peptides modulate multiple mechanisms favoring neuronal cell survival, as well as their ability to improve functional outcome and reduce posttraumatic lesion size, suggests that they may have potential utility in clinical head injury.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Brain Injuries / drug therapy*
  • Brain Injuries / pathology
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Immunoblotting
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Peptides / pharmacology*
  • Peptides / therapeutic use
  • Pregnancy
  • RNA / biosynthesis
  • RNA / genetics
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Peptides
  • RNA
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase