NPD1 rapidly targets mitochondria-mediated apoptosis after acute injection protecting brain against ischemic injury

Exp Neurol. 2021 Jan:335:113495. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2020.113495. Epub 2020 Oct 8.


Mitochondria-related cell death pathways play a major role in ischemic brain injury. Thus, mitochondrial "protective" molecules could be considered for new therapeutic regimens. We recently reported that acute administration of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) triglyceride lipid emulsion, immediately after hypoxic-ischemic (HI) insult, markedly attenuated brain infarct size. This was associated with an early change of DHA-derived specialized pro-resolving mediator (SPM) profiles. Specifically, DHA treatment induced a 50% increase of neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1) levels in ischemic brain. Based on these findings, we questioned if direct administration of NPD1 after HI injury also affords neuroprotection, and if so, by what mechanisms. Using HI insult to mimic ischemic stroke in neonatal mice, we observed that acute intraperitoneal injection of NPD1 immediately after HI injury prevented the expansion of the ischemic core by ~40% and improved coordination and motor abilities compared to the control group. At 7 days after HI injury, NPD1 treatment decreased ipsilateral hemisphere atrophy and preserved motor functions in wire-holding and bridge-crossing tests compared to control littermates. Brain mitochondria, isolated at 4 h after reperfusion from mice treated with NPD1, showed an increase in the capacity to buffer calcium after HI injury, as result of the preservation of mitochondrial membranes. Further, NPD1 induced a reduction of mitochondrial BAX translocation and oligomerization, attenuated cytochrome C release and decreased AIF nuclear translocation. To confirm whether NPD1 acts as BAX inhibitor, we evaluated NPD1 action co-administrated with a pro-apoptotic agent, staurosporine, using mouse embryonic fibroblasts as in vitro model of apoptosis. NPD1 exposure markedly decreased mitochondria-mediated apoptosis, blocking BAX translocation from cytosol to mitochondria and subsequently reducing caspase-3 activation. Our findings provide novel evidence that the neuroprotective action of NPD1 is elicited rapidly in the first few hours after ischemic injury and is associated with both preserved mitochondrial membrane structure and reduced BAX mitochondrial translocation and activation.

Keywords: Apoptosis; BAX; DHA; Ischemic brain injury; Mitochondria; NPD1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Atrophy
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Infarction / chemically induced
  • Brain Infarction / drug therapy
  • Brain Ischemia / prevention & control*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / therapeutic use
  • Ischemic Stroke / chemically induced
  • Ischemic Stroke / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mitochondria / drug effects*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects
  • Reperfusion Injury / drug therapy
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / antagonists & inhibitors
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / metabolism


  • Bax protein, mouse
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • protectin D1
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids