Attenuating vascular stenosis-induced astrogliosis preserves white matter integrity and cognitive function

J Neuroinflammation. 2021 Aug 28;18(1):187. doi: 10.1186/s12974-021-02234-8.


Background: Chronic cerebral hypoperfusion (CCH) causes white matter damage and cognitive impairment, in which astrogliosis is the major pathology. However, underlying cellular mechanisms are not well defined. Activation of Na+/H+ exchanger-1 (NHE1) in reactive astrocytes causes astrocytic hypertrophy and swelling. In this study, we examined the role of NHE1 protein in astrogliosis, white matter demyelination, and cognitive function in a murine CCH model with bilateral carotid artery stenosis (BCAS).

Methods: Sham, BCAS, or BCAS mice receiving vehicle or a selective NHE1 inhibitor HOE642 were monitored for changes of the regional cerebral blood flow and behavioral performance for 28 days. Ex vivo MRI-DTI was subsequently conducted to detect brain injury and demyelination. Astrogliosis and demyelination were further examined by immunofluorescence staining. Astrocytic transcriptional profiles were analyzed with bulk RNA-sequencing and RT-qPCR.

Results: Chronic cerebral blood flow reduction and spatial working memory deficits were detected in the BCAS mice, along with significantly reduced mean fractional anisotropy (FA) values in the corpus callosum, external capsule, and hippocampus in MRI DTI analysis. Compared with the sham control mice, the BCAS mice displayed demyelination and axonal damage and increased GFAP+ astrocytes and Iba1+ microglia. Pharmacological inhibition of NHE1 protein with its inhibitor HOE642 prevented the BCAS-induced gliosis, damage of white matter tracts and hippocampus, and significantly improved cognitive performance. Transcriptome and immunostaining analysis further revealed that NHE1 inhibition specifically attenuated pro-inflammatory pathways and NADPH oxidase activation.

Conclusion: Our study demonstrates that NHE1 protein is involved in astrogliosis with pro-inflammatory transformation induced by CCH, and its blockade has potentials for reducing astrogliosis, demyelination, and cognitive impairment.

Keywords: Demyelination; Gliosis; Hypoperfusion; Na+/H+ exchanger; Vascular dementia.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / drug effects*
  • Astrocytes / pathology
  • Carotid Stenosis / drug therapy*
  • Carotid Stenosis / pathology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / drug effects
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / pathology
  • Gliosis / drug therapy*
  • Gliosis / pathology
  • Guanidines / pharmacology
  • Guanidines / therapeutic use*
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Mice
  • Microglia / drug effects
  • Microglia / pathology
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchanger 1 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Sulfones / pharmacology
  • Sulfones / therapeutic use*
  • White Matter / drug effects*
  • White Matter / pathology


  • Guanidines
  • Slc9a1 protein, mouse
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchanger 1
  • Sulfones
  • cariporide