The blood-brain barrier (BBB) plays a vital role as both a physiologic and physical barrier in regulating the movement of water from the vasculature to the brain. During a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), the BBB is disrupted by a variety of mediators, one of which can result in endothelial cell death. As a result, in the present study, we investigated the role of PUMA (p53 upregulated modulator of apoptosis) following SAH injury in rats. Specifically evaluating whether through the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), PUMA could orchestrate the induction of endothelial cell apoptosis and cause a disruption in the blood-brain barrier integrity. One hundred twelve male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly divided into 4 groups: sham, SAH, SAH+control siRNA, SAH+PUMA siRNA. Outcomes measured include mortality rate, brain edema, BBB disruption, and neurobehavioral testing. We also used Western blotting techniques to measure the expression of key pro-apoptotic proteins such as BAX, BAK, and DRP1. PUMA siRNA treatment significantly reduced the mortality rate, cerebral edema, neurobehavioral deficits, and BBB disruption as measured by Evans blue assay following SAH injury. The T2WI images showed there was an increase in vasogenic edema in the brain following SAH, which could be alleviated by PUMA siRNA. Immunohistochemical staining and Western blot analysis demonstrated an increased expression of PUMA, BAX, BAK, GRP78 and DRP1 in the microvascular endothelial cells of the hippocampus, which was accompanied with endothelium apoptosis. This study showed that PUMA induced endothelial cell apoptosis may in fact play a significant role in BBB disruption following SAH and its mediation may be through the endoplasmic reticulum. By blocking the activity of PUMA using siRNA, we were able to prevent the accumulation of cerebral edema that occurs following BBB disruption. This translated into a preservation of functional integrity and an improvement in mortality.
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