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      Erythropoietin mediates neurobehavioral recovery and neurovascular remodeling following traumatic brain injury in rats by increasing expression of vascular endothelial growth factor.

      Translational Stroke Research

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          Erythropoietin (EPO) improves functional recovery after traumatic brain injury (TBI). Here, we investigated the role of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR2) on EPO-induced therapeutic efficacy in rats after TBI. Young male Wistar rats were subjected to unilateral controlled cortical impact injury and then infused intracerebroventricularly with either a potent selective VEGFR2 inhibitor SU5416 or vehicle dimethyl sulfoxide. Animals from both groups received delayed EPO treatment (5,000 U/kg in saline) administered intraperitoneally daily at 1, 2, and 3 days post injury. TBI rats treated with saline administered intraperitoneally daily at 1, 2, and 3 days post injury served as EPO treatment controls. 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine was administered to label dividing cells. Spatial learning and sensorimotor function were assessed using a modified Morris water maze test and modified neurological severity score, respectively. Animals were sacrificed at 4 days post injury for measurement of VEGF and VEGFR2 or 35 days post injury for evaluation of cell proliferation, angiogenesis and neurogenesis. EPO treatment promoted sensorimotor and cognitive functional recovery after TBI. EPO treatment increased brain VEGF expression and phosphorylation of VEGFR2. EPO significantly increased cell proliferation, angiogenesis and neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus after TBI. Compared to the vehicle, SU5416 infusion significantly inhibited phosphorylation of VEGFR2, cell proliferation, angiogenesis, and neurogenesis as well as abolished functional recovery in EPO-treated TBI rats. These findings indicate the VEGF/VEGFR2 activation plays an important role in EPO-mediated neurobehavioral recovery and neurovascular remodeling after TBI.

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