Aim: Genetic factors are important for outcome after traumatic brain injury (TBI), although exact knowledge of relevant genes/pathways is still lacking. We here used an unbiased approach to define differentially activated pathways between the inbred DA and PVG rat strains. The results prompted us to study further if a naturally occurring genetic variation in glutathione-S-transferase alpha 4 (Gsta4) affects the outcome after TBI.
Results: Survival of neurons after experimental TBI is increased in PVG compared to the DA strain. Global expression profiling analysis shows the glutathione metabolism pathway to be the most regulated between the strains, with increased Gsta4 in PVG among top regulated transcripts. A congenic strain (R5) with a PVG genomic insert containing the Gsta4 gene on DA background displays a reversal of the strain pattern for Gsta4 expression and increased survival of neurons compared to DA. Gsta4 is known to effectively reduce 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE), a noxious by-product of lipid peroxidation. Immunostaining of 4-HNE was evident in both rat and human TBI. Intracerebral injection of 4-HNE resulted in neurodegeneration with increased levels of a marker for nerve injury in cerebrospinal fluid of DA compared to R5.
Innovation: These findings provide strong support for the notion that the inherent capability of coping with increased 4-HNE after TBI affects outcome in terms of nerve cell loss.
Conclusion: A naturally occurring variation in Gsta4 expression in rats affects neurodegeneration after TBI. Further studies are needed to explore if genetic variability in Gsta4 can be associated to outcome also in human TBI.