Aminoprocalcitonin protects against hippocampal neuronal death via preserving oxidative phosphorylation in refractory status epilepticus

Cell Death Discov. 2023 May 4;9(1):144. doi: 10.1038/s41420-023-01445-7.


Refractory status epilepticus (RSE) is a neurological emergency where sustaining seizure causes severe neuronal death. Currently, there is no available neuroprotectant effective in RSE. Aminoprocalcitonin (NPCT) is a conserved peptide cleaved from procalcitonin, but its distribution and function in the brain remain enigmatic. Survival of neurons relies on sufficient energy supply. Recently, we found that NPCT was extensively distributed in the brain and had potent modulations on neuronal oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS), suggesting that NPCT might be involved in neuronal death by regulating energy status. In the present study, combining biochemical and histological methods, high-throughput RNA-sequence, Seahorse XFe analyser, an array of mitochondria function assays, and behavior-electroencephalogram (EEG) monitoring, we investigated the roles and translational values of NPCT in neuronal death after RSE. We found that NPCT was extensively distributed throughout gray matters in rat brain while RSE triggered NPCT overexpression in hippocampal CA3 pyramidal neurons. High-throughput RNA-sequence demonstrated that the influences of NPCT on primary hippocampal neurons were enriched in OXPHOS. Further function assays verified that NPCT facilitated ATP production, enhanced the activities of mitochondrial respiratory chain complexes I, IV, V, and increased neuronal maximal respiration capacity. NPCT exerted multiple neurotrophic effects including facilitating synaptogenesis, neuritogenesis, spinogenesis, and suppression of caspase-3. A polyclonal NPCT immunoneutralization antibody was developed to antagonize NPCT. In the in vitro 0-Mg2+ seizure model, immunoneutralization of NPCT caused more neuronal death, while exogenous NPCT supplementation, though did not reverse death outcomes, preserved mitochondrial membrane potential. In rat RSE model, both peripheral and intracerebroventricular immunoneutralization of NPCT exacerbated hippocampal neuronal death and peripheral immunoneutralization increased mortality. Intracerebroventricular immunoneutralization of NPCT further led to more serious hippocampal ATP depletion, and significant EEG power exhaustion. We conclude that NPCT is a neuropeptide regulating neuronal OXPHOS. During RSE, NPCT was overexpressed to protect hippocampal neuronal survival via facilitating energy supply.