Tolerance-inducing dose of 3-nitropropionic acid modulates bcl-2 and bax balance in the rat brain: A potential mechanism of chemical preconditioning

Ansgar M. Brambrink, Armin Schneider, Holger Noga, Andreas Astheimer, Bernhard Götz, Ines Körner, Axel Heimann, Martin Welschof, Oliver Kempski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Many studies have reported ischemia protection using various preconditioning techniques, including single dose 3-nitropropionic acid (3-NPA), a mitochondrial toxin. However, the cellular signal transduction cascades resulting in ischemic tolerance and the mechanisms involved in neuronal survival in the tolerant state still remain unclear. The current study investigated the mRNA and protein expression of the antiapoptotic bcl-2 and the proapoptotic bax, two antagonistic members of the bcl-2 gene family, in response to a single dose of 3-NPA, to global cerebral ischemia-reperfusion, and to the combination of both 3-NPA-pretreatment and subsequent global cerebral ischemia-reperfusion. Brain homogenates of adult Wistar rats (n = 25) were analyzed for bcl-2 and bax mRNA expression using a new highly sensitive and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique that allows real-time fluorescence measurements of the PCR product (LightCycler; Roche Diagnostics, Mannheim, Germany). Animals for mRNA analysis received 3-NPA (20 mg/kg, intraperitoneal; 'chemical preconditioning') or vehicle (normal saline), and were either observed for 24 plus 3 hours or were subjected to 15 minutes of global cerebral ischemia 24 hours after the pretreatment and observed for 3 hours of reperfusion. Immunohistochemistry was applied to serial brain sections of additional rats (n = 68) to determine amount and localization of the respective Bcl-2 and Bax protein expression in various brain areas. One set of animals was injected with 3-NPA and observed for 3, 12, 24, and 96 hours; a second set was exposed to 15 minutes global cerebral ischemia, 3, 12, and 24 hours reperfusion; and a third set was pretreated with 3-NPA or saline 24 hours before the ischemic brain insult and observed for 96 hours of reperfusion. The authors found single dose 3-NPA treatment to be associated with an elevated bcl-2:bax ratio (increased bcl-2 expression, decreased bax expression), both on the transcriptional (mRNA) and the translational (protein) level. The differential influence of 3-NPA was maintained during early recovery from global cerebral ischemia (3 hours), when 3-NPA pretreated animals showed higher bcl-2 and lower bax mRNA levels compared with rats with saline treatment. Respective changes in protein expression were localized predominately in neurons vulnerable to ischemic damage. Compared with baseline, Bcl-2 protein was significantly higher in surviving neurons at 96 hours after the insult, whereas Bax protein remained unchanged. However, at this late time of postischemic recovery (96 hours), the protein expression pattern of surviving neurons was not different between animals with and without 3-NPA pretreatment. To the authors' knowledge, the current study is the first report on the differential expression of pro- and antiapoptotic genes after a single, nonlethal dose of 3-NPA. The current results suggest alterations in the balance between pro- and antiapoptotic proteins as a potential explanation for the reported protection provided by chemical preconditioning using 3-NPA in rats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1425-1436
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Global cerebral ischemia
  • Polymerase chain reaction
  • Tolerance
  • mRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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