Oxidative stress is a mediator of cell death following cerebral ischemia/reperfusion and heme toxicity, which can be an important pathogenic factor in acute brain injury. Induced expression of phase II detoxification enzymes through activation of the antioxidant response element (ARE)/Nrf2 pathway has emerged as a promising approach for neuroprotection. Little is known, however, about the neuroprotective potential of this strategy against injury in immature brain cells. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that sulforaphane (SFP), a naturally occurring isothiocyanate that is also a known activator of the ARE/Nrf2 antioxidant pathway, can protect immature neurons from oxidative stress-induced death. The hypothesis was tested with primary mouse hippocampal neurons exposed to either O(2) and glucose deprivation (OGD) or hemin. Treatment of immature neurons with SFP immediately after the OGD during reoxygenation was effective in protecting immature neurons from delayed cell death. Exposure of immature hippocampal neurons to hemin induced significant cell death, and both pre- and cotreatment with SFP were remarkably effective in blocking cytotoxicity. RT-PCR analysis indicated that several Nrf2-dependent cytoprotective genes, including NAD(P)H quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1), heme oxygenase 1 (HO1), and glutamate-cysteine ligase modifier subunit (GCLM), which is involved in glutathione biosynthesis, were up-regulated following SFP treatment both in control neurons and following exposure to OGD and hemin. These results indicate that SFP activates the ARE/Nrf2 pathway of antioxidant defense and protects immature neurons from death caused by stress paradigms relevant to those associated with ischemic and traumatic injury to the immature brain.
(c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.