Objective: We investigated the time course of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) enzymatic activity and immunocytochemical localization of iNOS expression after traumatic brain injury (TBI), as well as the possible role of iNOS in the pathogenesis of TBI.
Methods: Male Sprague-Dawley rats were anesthetized and underwent moderate parasagittal fluid-percussion brain injury. Rats were decapitated 5 minutes, 6 hours, 1 day, 3 days, 7 days, or 14 days later, and iNOS enzymatic activities were measured (n = 6-8). To determine whether nitric oxide produced by iNOS contributed to the histopathological consequences of TBI, inhibition of iNOS activity using aminoguanidine (intraperitoneal injections of 100 mg/kg aminoguanidine [n = 9] or vehicle [n = 8], twice each day) was conducted for 3 days.
Results: Significantly elevated iNOS activity was detected at 3 days (276.8+/-72.3% of contralateral value, means +/- standard errors; P < 0.05), and the most robust increase occurred 7 days after TBI (608.0+/-127.0%, P < 0.01) in the injured parietal cerebral cortex. Immunostaining for iNOS and glial fibrillary acidic protein, at 3 and 7 days after TBI, revealed that the major cellular sources of iNOS expression were cortical Layer 1 astrocytes and macrophages within the subarachnoid space. Administration of aminoguanidine did not reduce contusion volume significantly; however, treatment reduced total cortical necrotic neuron counts (1367.6+/-210.3; P < 0.01, compared with vehicle, 2808.5+/-325.1).
Conclusion: These data indicate that iNOS is expressed after moderate parasagittal fluid-percussion brain injury, in a time-dependent manner, and that inhibition of iNOS synthesis improves histopathological outcomes. Thus, inhibition of iNOS activation may represent a potential therapeutic strategy for the treatment of TBI.