Matrix metalloproteinase-9 : surrogate marker and therapeutic target against neurovascular impairment after cerebral ischemia
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Stroke ranks fourth among all causes of death, and acute ischemic stroke is the most common form. The neurovascular unit (NVU) describes a basic functional structure in the brain and is primarily composed of endothelial cells, pericytes, astrocytes, microglia and neurons. The dynamic structure of the NVU is highly regulated due to interactions between different cells and extracellular matrix (ECM) components. Proteolysis of the ECM by matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), especially MMP-9, plays an important role in the pathophysiology of cerebral ischemia and administration of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). The activation of gelatinases (MMP-2/9) is considered a key mechanism involved in the impairment of NVU. The overall goal of this research project is to examine the role of MMP-9 in the neurovascular impairment after ischemic stroke in mice. In this project, we implemented a new strategy using gelatinase-activatable cell-penetrating peptides (ACPPs) tagged with fluorescence and/or gadolinium-based contrast agents to investigate proteolysis of gelatinases as surrogate markers of neurovascular integrity. We presented evidence that the combination of a sensitive fluorescent chromatophore and MRI contrast enhancement agent can be used to monitor gelatinase activity and its distribution in cultured neurons as well as in mice after focal cerebral ischemia. Detection of the activity of gelatinases in vivo using ACPPs could provide insights into the underlying mechanism for gelatinase proteolysis that mediate ischemia-related neurovascular impairment. We also applied a two-dimensional (2D) gelatin zymography technique that combines isoelectric focusing (IEF) with zymographic electrophoresis. We demonstrated that the 2D zymography approach can improve separation of different isoforms of gelatinases in both in vitro and in vivo conditions. 2D zymography is an effective method to separate posttranslational modification isoforms of gelatinases and to identify modifications that regulate their enzymatic activity in acute brain injuries. In work that follows, we used a fibrin-rich blood clot to occlude the middle cerebral artery (MCA) in mice as a model to represent the critical thromboembolic features of ischemic stroke in humans. In this study, we evaluated effects of SB-3CT, a mechanism-based inhibitor selective for gelatinases. We demonstrated MMP-9 activation and neurovasculature impairment in this stroke model, and showed the ability of SB-3CT to inhibit MMP-9 activity in vivo, which in turn resulted in maintenance of laminin, antagonism of pericyte contraction and loss, preservation of laminin-positive pericytes and endothelial cells, and thus rescuing neurons from apoptosis and preventing intracerebral hemorrhage. We further demonstrated that SB-3CT/tPA combined treatment could attenuate MMP-9 -- mediated degradation of endothelial laminin, impairment of endothelial cells, and decrease of caveolae -- mediated transcytosis. Early inhibition of MMP-9 proteolysis by SB-3CT decreased brain damage, reduced BBB disruption, and prevented hemorrhagic transformation after delayed tPA treatment. Therefore usage of SB-3CT will be helpful in accessing combination therapy with tPA in ischemic stroke. Results from these studies indicate the important role of MMP-9 in cerebral ischemia and thus the need for further studies to explore the molecular mechanisms underlying its activation and regulation. Results further demonstrated that the combined use of MMP-9 inhibitor with tPA may extend tPA therapeutic window for mitigating stroke damage.