Objective: Maternal inflammation/infection alone or in combination with birth asphyxia increases the risk for perinatal brain injury. Free radicals are implicated as major mediators of inflammation and hypoxia-ischemia (HI)-induced perinatal brain injury. This study evaluated the neuroprotective efficacy of a scavenging agent, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), in a clinically relevant model.
Methods: Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-sensitized HI brain injury was induced in 8-day-old neonatal rats. NAC was administered in multiple doses, and brain injury was evaluated at 7 days after HI.
Results: NAC (200mg/kg) provided marked neuroprotection with up to 78% reduction of brain injury in the pre+post-HI treatment group and 41% in the early (0 hour) post-HI treatment group, which was much more pronounced protection than another free radical scavenger, melatonin. Protection by NAC was associated with the following factors: (1) reduced isoprostane activation and nitrotyrosine formation; (2) increased levels of the antioxidants glutathione, thioredoxin-2, and (3) inhibition of caspase-3, calpain, and caspase-1 activation.
Interpretation: NAC provides substantial neuroprotection against brain injury in a model that combines infection/inflammation and HI. Protection by NAC was associated with improvement of the redox state and inhibition of apoptosis, suggesting that these events play critical roles in the development of lipopolysaccharide-sensitized HI brain injury.