Objective: Hypoxia-ischemia (HI) in rat pups leads to strong activation of apoptosis, and apoptosis contributes significantly to cerebral damage in the perinatal period. Caffeine displays a broad array of actions on the brain. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of caffeine on neuronal apoptosis in a hypoxic-ischemic neonatal model.
Methods: Twenty-four seven-day-old Wistar rat pups were subjected to right common carotid artery ligation and hypoxia for 2 h. Sham group (n = 8) had a median neck incision, but the rats were not subjected to ligation or hypoxia. The pups were treated with 20 mg/kg/day caffeine citrate (n = 8) or saline (n = 8) immediately before HI and at 0, 24, 48 and 72 h post-hypoxia. Neuronal apoptosis was evaluated by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end-labeling (TUNEL) and caspase-3 in the hippocampus and parietal cortex of both hemispheres.
Results: The numbers of apoptotic cells in the hippocampus and parietal cortex were significantly higher in the saline group than they were in the sham group (p < 0.0001). The number of apoptotic cells in the hippocampus (p < 0.0001) and parietal cortex (p < 0.0001, TUNEL and p = 0.001, caspase-3) were higher in the caffeine-treated group than they were in the sham group, but the number of apoptotic cells decreased significantly in the caffeine-treated group compared with the saline group in the hippocampus (p < 0.0001, TUNEL and p = 0.001, caspase-3) and parietal cortex (p = 0.001, TUNEL and p = 0.002, caspase-3).
Conclusions: We show that caffeine administration in hypoxic-ischemic brain injury reduces neuronal apoptosis in the developing brain. We suggest that caffeine may be effective in reducing brain injury.
Keywords: Apoptosis; brain injury; caffeine; hypoxia; ischemia.