Activation of MC1R with BMS-470539 attenuates neuroinflammation via cAMP/PKA/Nurr1 pathway after neonatal hypoxic-ischemic brain injury in rats

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Journal of Neuroinflammation




Background: Microglia-mediated neuroinflammation plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of hypoxic-ischemic (HI)-induced brain injury. Activation of melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) has been shown to exert anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects in several neurological diseases. In the present study, we have explored the role of MC1R activation on neuroinflammation and the potential underlying mechanisms after neonatal hypoxic-ischemic brain injury in rats. Methods: A total of 169 post-natal day 10 unsexed rat pups were used. HI was induced by right common carotid artery ligation followed by 2.5 h of hypoxia. BMS-470539, a specific selective MC1R agonist, was administered intranasally at 1 h after HI induction. To elucidate the potential underlying mechanism, MC1R CRISPR KO plasmid or Nurr1 CRISPR KO plasmid was administered via intracerebroventricular injection at 48 h before HI induction. Percent brain infarct area, short- and long-term neurobehavioral tests, Nissl staining, immunofluorescence staining, and Western blot were conducted. Results: The expression levels of MC1R and Nurr1 increased over time post-HI. MC1R and Nurr1 were expressed on microglia at 48 h post-HI. Activation of MC1R with BMS-470539 significantly reduced the percent infarct area, brain atrophy, and inflammation, and improved short- and long-term neurological deficits at 48 h and 28 days post-HI. MC1R activation increased the expression of CD206 (a microglial M2 marker) and reduced the expression of MPO. Moreover, activation of MC1R with BMS-470539 significantly increased the expression levels of MC1R, cAMP, p-PKA, and Nurr1, while downregulating the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNFα, IL-6, and IL-1β) at 48 h post-HI. However, knockout of MC1R or Nurr1 by specific CRISPR reversed the neuroprotective effects of MC1R activation post-HI. Conclusions: Our study demonstrated that activation of MC1R with BMS-470539 attenuated neuroinflammation, and improved neurological deficits after neonatal hypoxic-ischemic brain injury in rats. Such anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects were mediated, at least in part, via the cAMP/PKA/Nurr1 signaling pathway. Therefore, MC1R activation might be a promising therapeutic target for infants with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).







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