Radiation exposure due to radiological terrorism and military circumstances are a continuing threat for the civilian population. In an uncontrolled radiation event, it is likely that there will be other types of injury involved, including trauma. While radiation combined injury is recognized as an area of great significance, overall there is a paucity of information regarding the mechanisms underlying the interactions between irradiation and other forms of injury, or what countermeasures might be effective in ameliorating such changes. The objective of this study was to determine if difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) could reduce the adverse effects of single or combined injury if administered beginning 24 h after exposure. Eight-week-old C57BL/J6 young-adult male mice received whole-body cesium-137 ((137)Cs) irradiation with 4 Gy. Immediately after irradiation, unilateral traumatic brain injury was induced using a controlled cortical impact system. Forty-four days postirradiation, animals were tested for hippocampus-dependent cognitive performance in the Morris water maze. After cognitive testing, animals were euthanized and their brains snap frozen for immunohistochemical assessment of neuroinflammation (activated microglia) and neurogenesis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus. Our data show that single and combined injuries induced variable degrees of hippocampus-dependent cognitive dysfunction, and when given 24 h post trauma, DFMO treatment ameliorated those effects. Cellular changes including neurogenesis and numbers of activated microglia were generally not associated with the cognitive changes. Further analyses also revealed that DFMO increased hippocampal protein levels of the antioxidants thioredoxin 1 and peroxiredoxin 3 compared to vehicle treated animals. While the mechanisms responsible for the improvement in cognition after DFMO treatment are not yet clear, these results constitute a basis for further development of DFMO as a countermeasure for ameliorating the of risks for cognitive dysfunction in individuals subjected to trauma and radiation combined injury.
The space radiation environment consists of multiple species of high-energy charge particles (HZE), including (56)Fe and (28)Si nuclei, that may impact neuronal cells, but their damaging effects on the central nervous system (CNS) have been poorly defined. Hippocampus-dependent memory functions have been shown to be highly sensitive to (56)Fe HZE particles, which poses a significant risk to the cognitive performance of astronauts during space missions. While low doses of (56)Fe radiation do not induce cell death of mature neurons, they affect synaptic plasticity in the CA1 region, the principal neuronal output of the hippocampal formation involved in memory formation. The effects of (28)Si on the CNS have not been defined. Compared to behaviorally naïve mice, cognitive testing might affect synaptic plasticity and the effects of (28)Si radiation on synaptic plasticity might be modulated by prior cognitive testing. Therefore, in the current study, we quantified the effects of whole-body (28)Si radiation (600 MeV/n, 0.25 and 1 Gy) on hippocampus-dependent contextual freezing and synaptic plasticity in the CA1 region of animals not exposed (behaviorally naïve mice) and animals exposed to the contextual freezing test (cognitively tested mice). In behaviorally naïve mice exposed to 0.25 and 1 Gy of (28)Si radiation, the magnitude of long-term potentiation (LTP) was enhanced. However, in mice irradiated with 0.25 Gy contextual fear conditioning was enhanced and was associated with a further enhancement of the LTP magnitude. Such increase in synaptic plasticity was not seen in cognitively tested mice irradiated with 1 Gy. Thus, low dose (28)Si radiation has effects on synaptic plasticity in the CA1 region of the hippocampus and these effects are modulated by cognitive testing in a contextual fear-conditioning test.
Chemokines and their receptors play a crucial role in normal brain function as well as in pathological conditions such as injury and disease-associated neuroinflammation. Chemokine receptor-2 (CCR2), which mediates the recruitment of infiltrating and resident microglia to sites of central nervous system (CNS) inflammation, is upregulated by ionizing irradiation and traumatic brain injury. Our objective was to determine if a deficiency in CCR2 and subsequent effects on brain microglia affect neurogenesis and cognitive function after radiation combined injury (RCI). CCR2 knock-out ?/? and wild-type (WT) mice received 4 Gy of whole body ¹³?Cs irradiation. Immediately after irradiation, unilateral traumatic brain injury was induced using a controlled cortical impact system. Forty-four days postirradiation, animals were tested for hippocampus-dependent cognitive performance in the Morris water-maze. After cognitive testing, animals were euthanized and their brains snap frozen for immunohistochemical assessment of neuroinflammation (activated microglia) and neurogenesis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus. All animals were able to locate the visible and hidden platform locations in the water maze; however, treatment effects were seen when spatial memory retention was assessed in the probe trials (no platform). In WT animals that received combined injury, a significant impairment in spatial memory retention was observed in the probe trial after the first day of hidden platform training (first probe trial). This impairment was associated with increased neurogenesis in the ipsilateral hemisphere of the dentate gyrus. In contrast, CCR2?/? mice, independent of insult showed significant memory retention in the first probe trial and there were no differences in the numbers of newly born neurons in the animals receiving irradiation, trauma or combined injury. Although the mechanisms involved are not clear, our data suggests that CCR2 deficiency can exert a protective effect preventing the impairment of cognitive function after combined injury.
Altered levels of extracellular superoxide dismutase (EC-SOD) and cranial irradiation have been shown to affect hippocampal neurogenesis. However, previous studies were only conducted in male mice, and it was not clear if there was a difference between males and females. Therefore, female mice were studied and the results compared with those generated in male mice from an earlier study.
(56)Fe irradiation affects hippocampus-dependent cognition. The underlying mechanisms may involve alterations in neurogenesis, expression of the plasticity-related immediate early gene Arc, and inflammation. Chemokine receptor-2 (CCR2), which mediates the recruitment of infiltrating and resident microglia to sites of CNS inflammation, is upregulated by (56)Fe irradiation. CCR2 KO and wild-type mice were used to compare effects of (56)Fe radiation (600MeV, 0.25Gy) on hippocampal function using contextual fear conditioning involving tone shock pairing during training (+/+) and exposure to the same environment without tone shock pairings (-/-). In the -/- condition, irradiation enhanced habituation in WT mice, but not CCR2 KO mice, suggesting that a lack of CCR2 was associated with reduced cognitive performance. In the +/+ condition, irradiation reduced freezing but there was no genotype differences. There were no significant correlations between the number of Arc-positive cells in the dentate gyrus and freezing in either genotype. While measures of neurogenesis and gliogenesis appeared to be modulated by CCR2, there were no effects of genotype on the total numbers of newly born activated microglia before or after irradiation, indicating that other mechanisms are involved in the genotype-dependent radiation response.
The space radiation environment contains high-energy charged particles such as (56)Fe, which could pose a significant hazard to hippocampal function in astronauts during and after the mission(s). The mechanisms underlying impairments in cognition are not clear but might involve alterations in the percentage of neurons in the dentate gyrus expressing the plasticity-related immediate early gene Arc. Previously, we showed effects of cranial (56)Fe irradiation on hippocampus-dependent contextual freezing and on the percentage of Arc-positive cells in the enclosed, but not free, blade. Because it is unclear whether whole body (56)Fe irradiation causes similar effects on these markers of hippocampal function, in the present study we quantified the effects of whole body (56)Fe irradiation (600MeV, 0.5 or 1Gy) on hippocampus-dependent and hippocampus-independent cognitive performance and determined whether these effects were associated with changes in Arc expression in the enclosed and free blades of the dentate gyrus. Whole body (56)Fe irradiation impacted contextual but not cued fear freezing and the percentage of Arc-positive cells in the enclosed and free blades. In mice tested for contextual freezing, there was a correlation between Arc-positive cells in the enclosed and free blades. In addition, in mice irradiated with 0.5Gy, contextual freezing in the absence of aversive stimuli correlated with the percentage of Arc-positive cells in the enclosed blade. In mice tested for cued freezing, there was no correlation between Arc-positive cells in the enclosed and free blades. In contrast, cued freezing in the presence or absence of aversive stimuli correlated with Arc-positive cells in the free blade. In addition, in mice irradiated with 1Gy cued freezing in the absence of aversive stimuli correlated with the percentage of Arc-positive neurons in the free blade. These data indicate that while whole body (56)Fe radiation affects contextual freezing and Arc-positive cells in the dentate gyrus, the enclosed blade might be more important for contextual freezing while the free blade might be more important for cued freezing.
Ionizing radiation reduces the numbers of neurons expressing activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein (Arc) in the hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG). It is currently unclear if that change relates to cognitive function. We assessed the effects of 1 Gy of head-only ??Fe-particle irradiation on hippocampus-dependent and hippocampus-independent fear conditioning and determined how those changes related to Arc expression within the DG. Irradiated mice that did not receive tone-shock pairings on day 1 showed less freezing in the same context on a second day and a lower fraction of Arc-expressing neurons in the free (lower) blade of the DG than sham-irradiated mice. Those data suggested reduced hippocampus-dependent spatial habituation learning. Changes in Arc expression in the free blade correlated positively with freezing in mice that did not receive tone-shock pairings. However, irradiated mice that did receive tone-shock pairings showed enhanced contextual freezing but a reduced percentage of Arc-expressing neurons in the enclosed (upper) blade. Changes in Arc expression correlated negatively with freezing in mice that received tone-shock pairings. In animals receiving cued fear conditioning, radiation did not affect cognitive performance or the fractions of Arc-expressing neurons. While the relationship between Arc expression and cognitive performance is complex, our data suggest that radiation effects on hippocampus-dependent cognition might depend on the prominence (salience) of environmental stimuli and blade-specific Arc expression.
Cranial radiotherapy induces progressive and debilitating declines in cognition that may, in part, be caused by the depletion of neural stem cells. The potential of using stem cell replacement as a strategy to combat radiation-induced cognitive decline was addressed by irradiating athymic nude rats followed 2 days later by intrahippocampal transplantation with human neural stem cells (hNSC). Measures of cognitive performance, hNSC survival, and phenotypic fate were assessed at 1 and 4 months after irradiation. Irradiated animals engrafted with hNSCs showed significantly less decline in cognitive function than irradiated, sham-engrafted animals and acted indistinguishably from unirradiated controls. Unbiased stereology revealed that 23% and 12% of the engrafted cells survived 1 and 4 months after transplantation, respectively. Engrafted cells migrated extensively, differentiated along glial and neuronal lineages, and expressed the activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein (Arc), suggesting their capability to functionally integrate into the hippocampus. These data show that hNSCs afford a promising strategy for functionally restoring cognition in irradiated animals.
Dentate granule cell neurogenesis persists throughout life in the hippocampus of mammals. Alterations in this process occur in many neurological diseases, including epilepsy. Among the different types of epilepsy, the most frequent is temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). Therefore, a number of laboratory studies use animal models of TLE to observe the fate of neuronal cells after seizures. Hippocampal neurogenesis is very sensitive to physiological and pathological stimuli. Seizures, as pathological stimuli, alter both the extent and the pattern of neurogenesis, which is associated with cognitive function. Various alterations in neurogenesis are observed depending on the amount of time that has elapsed after the seizures. In acute seizures, neurogenesis generally increases, whereas in chronic epilepsy, neurogenesis decreases. Moreover, several methods currently used for the treatment of brain disorders such as TLE can also have significant impacts on cognitive functions. This review is focused on the recent findings regarding neurogenesis in animal models of TLE.
Exposure to ionizing irradiation may affect brain functions directly, but may also change tissue sensitivity to a secondary insult such as trauma, stroke, or degenerative disease. To determine if a low dose of particulate irradiation sensitizes the brain to a subsequent injury, C56BL6 mice were exposed to brain only irradiation with 0.5 Gy of (56) Fe ions. Two months later, unilateral traumatic brain injury was induced using a controlled cortical impact system. Three weeks after trauma, animals received multiple BrdU injections and 30 days later were tested for cognitive performance in the Morris water maze. All animals were able to locate the visible and hidden platform during training; however, treatment effects were seen when spatial memory retention was assessed in the probe trial (no platform). Although sham and irradiated animals showed spatial memory retention, mice that received trauma alone did not. When trauma was preceded by irradiation, performance in the water maze was not different from sham-treated animals, suggesting that low-dose irradiation had a protective effect in the context of a subsequent traumatic injury. Measures of hippocampal neurogenesis showed that combined injury did not induce any changes greater that those seen after trauma or radiation alone. After trauma, there was a significant decrease in the percentage of neurons expressing the behaviorally induced immediate early gene Arc in both hemispheres, without associated neuronal loss. After combined injury there were no differences relative to sham-treated mice. Our results suggest that combined injury resulted in decreased alterations of our endpoints compared to trauma alone. Although the underlying mechanisms are not yet known, these results resemble a preconditioning, adaptive, or inducible-like protective response, where a sublethal or potentially injurious stimulus (i.e., irradiation) induces tolerance to a subsequent and potentially more damaging insult (trauma).
The hippocampus is critical for learning and memory, and injury to this structure is associated with cognitive deficits. The response of the hippocampal microvessels after a relatively low dose of high-LET radiation remains unclear. In this study, endothelial population changes in hippocampal microvessels exposed to (56)Fe ions at doses of 0, 0.5, 2 and 4 Gy were quantified using unbiased stereological techniques. Twelve months after exposure, mice that received 0.5 Gy or 2 Gy of iron ions showed a 34% or 29% loss of endothelial cells, respectively, in the hippocampal cornu ammonis region 1 (CA1) compared to age-matched controls or mice that received 4 Gy (P < 0.05). We suggest that this "U-shaped" dose response indicates a repopulation from a sensitive subset of endothelial cells that occurred after 4 Gy that was stimulated by an initial rapid loss of endothelial cells. In contrast to the CA1, in the dentate gyrus (DG), there was no significant difference in microvessel cell and length density between irradiated groups and age-matched controls. Vascular topology differences between CA1 and DG may account for the variation in dose response. The correlation between radiation-induced alterations in the hippocampal microvessels and their functional consequences must be investigated in further studies.
Treatment-induced CNS toxicity remains a major cause of morbidity in patients with cancer. Advances in the design of safe radiation procedures have been counterbalanced by widespread use of combined radiotherapy and chemotherapy, development of radiosurgery, and the increasing number of long-term survivors. Although classic radionecrosis and chemonecrosis have become less common, subtle changes such as progressive cognitive dysfunction are increasingly reported after radiotherapy (radiation-induced leukoencephalopathy) or chemotherapy (given alone or in combination). We review the most important and controversial complications of radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and combined treatments in the CNS, and discuss new diagnostic tools, practical management, prevention, and pathophysiological data that will affect future management of patients with cancer.
Cranial irradiation remains a frontline treatment for the control of tumor growth, and individuals surviving such treatments often manifest various degrees of cognitive dysfunction. Radiation-induced depletion of stem/precursor cell pools in the brain, particularly those residing in the neurogenic region of the hippocampus, is believed, in part, to be responsible for these often-unavoidable cognitive deficits. To explore the possibility of ameliorating radiation-induced cognitive impairment, athymic nude rats subjected to head only irradiation (10 Gy) were transplanted 2 days afterward with human embryonic stem cells (hESC) into the hippocampal formation and analyzed for stem cell survival, differentiation, and cognitive function. Animals receiving hESC transplantation exhibited superior performance on a hippocampal-dependent cognitive task 4 months postirradiation, compared to their irradiated surgical counterparts that did not receive hESCs. Significant stem cell survival was found at 1 and 4 months postirradiation, and transplanted cells showed robust migration to the subgranular zone throughout the dentate gyrus, exhibiting signs of neuron morphology within this neurogenic niche. These results demonstrate the capability to ameliorate radiation-induced normal tissue injury using hESCs, and suggest that such strategies may provide useful interventions for reducing the adverse effects of irradiation on cognition.
Switchgrass is being widely considered as a feedstock for biofuel production. Much remains to be learned about ideal feedstock characteristics, but switchgrass offers many advantages already and can perhaps be manipulated to offer more. When planning to grow switchgrass, select a cultivar that is well adapted to the location - generally a lowland cultivar for the southern United States and an upland cultivar at higher latitudes. Plant non-dormant seed after soils are well warmed, preferably with no-till methods and always with good weed control. Except for weeds, few pests appear to be widespread; but disease and insect pests could become more important as acreages increase. Fertilization requirements are relatively low, with 50 kg N/ha/year being a good "generic" recommendation where a single harvest is taken after plants have senesced; more will be needed if biomass is harvested while still green. Switchgrass should be harvested no more than twice per year and may generally be expected to produce 12 to >or=20 mg/ha/year across its usual range of distribution. A single harvest may provide for maximum sustainable yields - especially if the harvest is taken after tops die back at the end of the season. Several harvesting technologies are available, but the preferred technology may depend on logistics and economics associated with the local processing point, or biorefinery.
DNA strand breaks trigger marked phosphorylation of histone H2AX (i.e. gamma-H2AX). While DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) provide a strong stimulus for this event, the accompanying structural alterations in chromatin may represent the actual signal that elicits gamma-H2AX. Our data show that changes in chromatin structure are sufficient to elicit extensive gamma-H2AX formation in the relative absence of DNA strand breaks. Cells subjected to hypotonic (0.05 M) treatment exhibit gamma-H2AX levels that are equivalent to those found after the induction of 80-200 DNA DSBs (i.e. 2-5 Gy). Despite this significant increase in phosphorylation, cell survival remains relatively unaffected (<10% cytotoxicity), and there is no significant increase in apoptosis. Nuclear staining profiles indicate that gamma-H2AX-positive cells induced under altered tonicity exhibit variable levels of staining, ranging from uniform pan staining to discrete punctate foci more characteristic of DNA strand breakage. The capability to induce significant gamma-H2AX formation under altered tonicity in the relative absence of DNA strand breaks suggests that this histone modification evolved in response to changes in chromatin structure.
Ionizing irradiation significantly affects hippocampal neurogenesis and is associated with cognitive impairments; these effects may be influenced by an altered microenvironment. Oxidative stress is a factor that has been shown to affect neurogenesis, and one of the protective pathways that deal with such stress involves the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD). This study addressed what impact a deficiency in cytoplasmic (SOD1) or mitochondrial (SOD2) SOD has on radiation effects on hippocampal neurogenesis. Wild-type (WT) and SOD1 and SOD2 knockout (KO) mice received a single X-ray dose of 5 Gy, and quantification of the survival and phenotypic fate of newly generated cells in the dentate subgranular zone was performed 2 months later. Radiation exposure reduced neurogenesis in WT mice but had no apparent effect in KO mice, although baseline levels of neurogenesis were reduced in both SOD KO strains before irradiation. Additionally, there were marked and significant differences between WT and both KO strains in how irradiation affected newly generated astrocytes and activated microglia. The mechanism(s) responsible for these effects is not yet known, but a pilot in vitro study suggests a "protective" effect of elevated levels of superoxide. Overall, these data suggest that under conditions of SOD deficiency, there is a common pathway dictating how neurogenesis is affected by ionizing irradiation.
The tolerance of normal brain tissues limits the radiation dose that can be delivered safely during cranial radiotherapy, and one of the potential complications that can arise involves cognitive impairment. Extensive laboratory data have appeared recently showing that hippocampal neurogenesis is significantly impacted by irradiation and that such changes are associated with altered cognitive function and involve, in part, changes in the microenvironment (oxidative stress and inflammation). Although there is considerable uncertainty about exactly how these changes evolve, new in vitro and in vivo approaches have provided a means by which new mechanistic insights can be gained relevant to the topic. Together, the data from cell culture and animal-based studies provide complementary information relevant to a potentially serious complication of cranial radiotherapy and should enhance our understanding of the tolerance of normal brain after cranial irradiation.
At a meeting of the Translation Research Program of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group held in early 2008, attendees focused on updating the current state of knowledge in cancer stem cell research and discussing ways in which this knowledge can be translated into clinical use across all disease sites. This report summarizes the major topics discussed and the future directions that research should take. Major conclusions of the symposium were that the flow cytometry of multiple markers in fresh tissue would remain the standard technique of evaluating cancer-initiating cells and that surrogates need to be developed for both experimental and clinical use.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of disability among young children and is associated with long-term cognitive deficits. These clinical findings have prompted an investigation of the hippocampus in an experimental model of trauma to the developing brain at postnatal day (p21). Previous studies using this model have revealed a progressive loss of neurons in the hippocampus as brain-injured animals mature to young adulthood. Here we determined whether this hippocampal vulnerability is likewise reflected in altered neurogenesis and whether the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase (GPx) modulates neurogenesis during maturation of the injured immature brain. Male transgenic mice that overexpress GPx and wild-type littermates were subjected to controlled cortical impact or sham surgery on p21. At 2 weeks postinjury, the numbers of proliferating cells and immature neurons within the subgranular zone were measured by using Ki-67 and doublecortin, respectively. Bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) was used to label dividing cells beginning 2 weeks postinjury. Survival (BrdU(+)) and neuronal differentiation (BrdU(+)/NeuN(+)) were then measured 4 weeks later via confocal microscopy. Two-way ANOVA revealed no significant interaction between genotype and injury. Subsequent analysis of the individual effects of injury and genotype, however, showed a significant reduction in subgranular zone proliferation (Ki-67) at 2 weeks postinjury (P = 0.0003) and precursor cell survival (BrdU(+)) at 6 weeks postinjury (P = 0.016) and a trend toward reduced neuronal differentiation (BrdU(+)/NeuN(+)) at 6 weeks postinjury (P = 0.087). Overall, these data demonstrate that traumatic injury to the injured immature brain impairs neurogenesis during maturation and suggest that GPx cannot rescue this reduced neurogenesis.
The extracellular isoform of superoxide dismutase (EC-SOD, Sod3) plays a protective role against various diseases and injuries mediated by oxidative stress. To investigate the pathophysiological roles of EC-SOD, we generated tetracycline-inducible Sod3 transgenic mice and directed the tissue-specific expression of transgenes by crossing Sod3 transgenic mice with tissue-specific transactivator transgenics. Double transgenic mice with liver-specific expression of Sod3 showed increased EC-SOD levels predominantly in the plasma as the circulating form, whereas double transgenic mice with neuronal-specific expression expressed higher levels of EC-SOD in hippocampus and cortex with intact EC-SOD as the dominant form. EC-SOD protein levels also correlated well with increased SOD activities in double transgenic mice. In addition to enabling tissue-specific expression, the transgene expression can be quickly turned on and off by doxycycline supplementation in the mouse chow. This mouse model, thus, provides the flexibility for on-off control of transgene expression in multiple target tissues.
Cranial irradiation can lead to long-lasting cognitive impairments in patients receiving radiotherapy for the treatment of malignant brain tumors. Recent studies have suggested inflammation as a major contributor to these deficits; we determined if the chemokine (C-C motif) receptor 2 (CCR2) was a mediator of cognitive impairments induced by irradiation. Two-month-old male Ccr2 knockout (-/-) and wild-type mice received 10 Gy cranial irradiation or sham-treatment. One month after irradiation, bromodeoxyuridine was injected intraperitoneally for seven consecutive days to label newly generated cells. At two months postirradiation, cognitive function was assessed by novel object recognition and Morris water maze. Our results show that CCR2 deficiency prevented hippocampus-dependent spatial learning and memory impairments induced by cranial irradiation. Hippocampal gene expression analysis showed that irradiation induced CCR2 ligands such as CCL8 and CCR2 deficiency reduced this induction. Irradiation reduced the number of adult-born neurons in both wild-type and Ccr2(-/-) mice, but the distribution pattern of the adult-born neurons through the granule cell layer was only altered in wild-type mice. Importantly, CCR2 deficiency normalized the fraction of pyramidal neurons expressing the plasticity-related immediate early gene Arc. These data offer new insight into the mechanism(s) of radiation-injury and suggest that CCR2 is a critical mediator of hippocampal neuronal dysfunction and hippocampal cognitive impairments after irradiation. Targeting CCR2 signaling could conceivably provide an effective approach to reduce or prevent the incidence and severity of this serious side effect of ionizing irradiation.
Cranial irradiation is widely used in cancer therapy, but it often causes cognitive defects in cancer survivors. Oxidative stress is considered a major cause of tissue injury from irradiation. However, in an earlier study mice deficient in the antioxidant enzyme extracellular superoxide dismutase (EC-SOD KO) showed reduced sensitivity to radiation-induced defects in hippocampal functions. To further dissect the role of EC-SOD in neurogenesis and in response to irradiation, we generated a bigenic EC-SOD mouse model (OE mice) that expressed high levels of EC-SOD in mature neurons in an otherwise EC-SOD-deficient environment. EC-SOD deficiency was associated with reduced progenitor cell proliferation in the subgranular zone of dentate gyrus in KO and OE mice. However, high levels of EC-SOD in the granule cell layer supported normal maturation of newborn neurons in OE mice. Following irradiation, wild-type mice showed reduced hippocampal neurogenesis, reduced dendritic spine densities, and defects in cognitive functions. OE and KO mice, on the other hand, were largely unaffected, and the mice performed normally in neurocognitive tests. Although the resulting hippocampal-related functions were similar in OE and KO mice following cranial irradiation, molecular analyses suggested that they may be governed by different mechanisms: whereas neurotrophic factors may influence radiation responses in OE mice, dendritic maintenance may be important in the KO environment. Taken together, our data suggest that EC-SOD plays an important role in all stages of hippocampal neurogenesis and its associated cognitive functions, and that high-level EC-SOD may provide protection against irradiation-related defects in hippocampal functions.
Radiation therapy of the CNS, even at low doses, can lead to deficits in neurocognitive functions. Reduction in hippocampal neurogenesis is usually, but not always, associated with cognitive deficits resulting from radiation therapy. Generation of reactive oxygen species is considered the main cause of radiation-induced tissue injuries, and elevated levels of oxidative stress persist long after the initial cranial irradiation. Consequently, mutant mice with reduced levels of the mitochondrial antioxidant enzyme, Mn superoxide dismutase (MnSOD or Sod2), are expected to be more sensitive to radiation-induced changes in hippocampal neurogenesis and the related functions. In this study, we showed that MnSOD deficiency led to reduced generation of immature neurons in Sod2-/+ mice even though progenitor cell proliferation was not affected. Compared to irradiated Sod2+/+ mice, which showed cognitive defects and reduced differentiation of newborn cells towards the neuronal lineage, irradiated Sod2-/+ mice showed normal hippocampal-dependent cognitive functions and normal differentiation pattern for newborn neurons and astroglia. However, we also observed a disproportional decrease in newborn neurons in irradiated Sod2-/+ following behavioral studies, suggesting that MnSOD deficiency may render newborn neurons more sensitive to stress from behavioral trainings following cranial irradiation. A positive correlation between normal cognitive functions and normal dendritic spine densities in dentate granule cells was observed. The data suggest that maintenance of synaptic connections, via maintenance of dendritic spines, may be important for normal cognitive functions following cranial irradiation.
Therapeutic irradiation of the brain is a common treatment modality for brain tumors, but can lead to impairment of cognitive function. Dendritic spines are sites of excitatory synaptic transmission and changes in spine structure and number are thought to represent a morphological correlate of altered brain functions associated with hippocampal dependent learning and memory. To gain some insight into the temporal and sub region specific cellular changes in the hippocampus following brain irradiation, we investigated the effects of 10 Gy cranial irradiation on dendritic spines in young adult mice. One week or 1 month post irradiation, changes in spine density and morphology in dentate gyrus (DG) granule and CA1 pyramidal neurons were quantified using Golgi staining. Our results showed that in the DG, there were significant reductions in spine density at both 1 week (11.9%) and 1 month (26.9%) after irradiation. In contrast, in the basal dendrites of CA1 pyramidal neurons, irradiation resulted in a significant reduction (18.7%) in spine density only at 1 week post irradiation. Analysis of spine morphology showed that irradiation led to significant decreases in the proportion of mushroom spines at both time points in the DG as well as CA1 basal dendrites. The proportions of stubby spines were significantly increased in both the areas at 1 month post irradiation. Irradiation did not alter spine density in the CA1 apical dendrites, but there were significant changes in the proportion of thin and mushroom spines at both time points post irradiation. Although the mechanisms involved are not clear, these findings are the first to show that brain irradiation of young adult animals leads to alterations in dendritic spine density and morphology in the hippocampus in a time dependent and region specific manner.
Exposure to uncontrolled irradiation in a radiologic terrorism scenario, a natural disaster or a nuclear battlefield, will likely be concomitantly superimposed on other types of injury, such as trauma. In the central nervous system, radiation combined injury (RCI) involving irradiation and traumatic brain injury may have a multifaceted character. This may entail cellular and molecular changes that are associated with cognitive performance, including changes in neurogenesis and the expression of the plasticity-related immediate early gene Arc. Because traumatic stimuli initiate a characteristic early increase in polyamine metabolism, we hypothesized that treatment with the polyamine inhibitor alpha-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) would reduce the adverse effects of single or combined injury on hippocampus structure and function. Hippocampal dependent cognitive impairments were quantified with the Morris water maze and showed that DFMO effectively reversed cognitive impairments after all injuries, particularly traumatic brain injury. Similar results were seen with respect to the expression of Arc protein, but not neurogenesis. Given that polyamines have been found to modulate inflammatory responses in the brain we also assessed the numbers of total and newly born activated microglia, and found reduced numbers of newly born cells. While the mechanisms responsible for the improvement in cognition after DFMO treatment are not yet clear, the present study provides new and compelling data regarding the potential use of DFMO as a potential countermeasure against the adverse effects of single or combined injury.
Abstract Purpose: Uncontrolled radiation exposure due to radiological terrorism, industrial accidents or military circumstances is a continuing threat for the civilian population. Age plays a major role in the susceptibility to radiation; younger children are at higher risk of developing cognitive deterioration when compared to adults. Our objective was to determine if an exposure to radiation affected the vulnerability of the juvenile hippocampus to a subsequent moderate traumatic injury. Materials and methods: Three week old (juvenile) and eight week old young adult C57BL/J6 male mice received whole body cesium-137 ((137)Cs) irradiation with 4 gray (Gy). One month later, unilateral traumatic brain injury was induced using a controlled cortical impact system. Two months post-irradiation, animals were tested for hippocampus-dependent cognitive performance in the Morris water-maze. After cognitive testing, animals were euthanized and their brains frozen for immunohistochemical assessment of activated microglia and neurogenesis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus. Results: All animals were able to learn the water maze task; however, treatment effects were seen when spatial memory retention was assessed. Animals that received irradiation as juveniles followed by a moderate traumatic brain injury one month later did not show spatial memory retention i.e. were cognitively impaired. In contrast, all groups of animals that were treated as adults showed spatial memory retention in the probe trials. Conclusion: Although the mechanisms involved are not clear, our results suggest that irradiation enhanced a young animals vulnerability to develop cognitive injury following a subsequent traumatic injury.
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