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      Tissue Plasminogen Activator–Mediated Fibrinolysis Protects against Axonal Degeneration and Demyelination after Sciatic Nerve Injury

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          Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is a serine protease that converts plasminogen to plasmin and can trigger the degradation of extracellular matrix proteins. In the nervous system, under noninflammatory conditions, tPA contributes to excitotoxic neuronal death, probably through degradation of laminin. To evaluate the contribution of extracellular proteolysis in inflammatory neuronal degeneration, we performed sciatic nerve injury in mice. Proteolytic activity was increased in the nerve after injury, and this activity was primarily because of Schwann cell–produced tPA. To identify whether tPA release after nerve damage played a beneficial or deleterious role, we crushed the sciatic nerve of mice deficient for tPA. Axonal demyelination was exacerbated in the absence of tPA or plasminogen, indicating that tPA has a protective role in nerve injury, and that this protective effect is due to its proteolytic action on plasminogen. Axonal damage was correlated with increased fibrin(ogen) deposition, suggesting that this protein might play a role in neuronal injury. Consistent with this idea, the increased axonal degeneration phenotype in tPA- or plasminogen-deficient mice was ameliorated by genetic or pharmacological depletion of fibrinogen, identifying fibrin as the plasmin substrate in the nervous system under inflammatory axonal damage. This study shows that fibrin deposition exacerbates axonal injury, and that induction of an extracellular proteolytic cascade is a beneficial response of the tissue to remove fibrin. tPA/plasmin-mediated fibrinolysis may be a widespread protective mechanism in neuroinflammatory pathologies.

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          Physiological consequences of loss of plasminogen activator gene function in mice.

          Indirect evidence suggests a crucial role for the fibrinolytic system and its physiological triggers, tissue-type (t-PA) and urokinase-type (u-PA) plasminogen activator, in many proteolytic processes. Inactivation of the t-PA gene impairs clot lysis and inactivation of the u-PA gene results in occasional fibrin deposition. Mice with combined t-PA and u-PA deficiency suffer extensive spontaneous fibrin deposition, with its associated effects on growth, fertility and survival.
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            Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) increases neuronal damage after focal cerebral ischemia in wild-type and tPA-deficient mice.

            Intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is used to treat acute stroke because of its thrombolytic activity and its ability to restore circulation to the brain. However, this protease also promotes neurodegeneration after intracerebral injection of excitotoxins such as glutamate, and neuronal damage after a cerebral infarct is thought to be mediated by excitotoxins. To investigate the effects of tPA on cerebral viability during ischemia/reperfusion, we occluded the middle cerebral artery in wild-type and tPA-deficient mice with an intravascular filament. This procedure allowed us to examine the role of tPA in ischemia, independent of its effect as a thrombolytic agent. tPA-deficient mice exhibited approximately 50% smaller cerebral infarcts than wild-type mice. Intravenous injection of tPA into tPA-/- or wild-type mice produced larger infarcts, indicating that tPA can increase stroke-induced injury. Since tPA promotes desirable (thrombolytic) as well as undesirable (neurotoxic) outcomes during stroke, future therapies should be aimed at countering the excitotoxic damage of tPA to afford even better neuroprotection after an acute cerebral infarct.
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              Excitotoxin-induced neuronal degeneration and seizure are mediated by tissue plasminogen activator.

              Neuronal degeneration in the hippocampus, a region of the brain important for acquisition of memory in humans, occurs in various pathological conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, brain ischaemia and epilepsy. When neuronal activity is stimulated in the adult rat and mouse hippocampus, tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a serine protease that converts inactive plasminogen to the active protease plasmin, is transcriptionally induced. The activity of tPA in neural tissue is correlated with neurite outgrowth, regeneration and migration, suggesting that it might be involved in neuronal plasticity. Here we show that tPA is produced primarily by microglia in the hippocampus. Using excitotoxins to induce neuronal cell loss, we demonstrate that tPA-deficient mice are resistant to neuronal degeneration. These mice are also less susceptible to pharmacologically induced seizures than wild-type mice. These findings identify a role for tPA in neuronal degeneration and seizure.

                Author and article information

                J Cell Biol
                The Journal of Cell Biology
                The Rockefeller University Press
                29 May 2000
                : 149
                : 5
                : 1157-1166
                [a ]Department of Pharmacology, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York 11794-8651
                [b ]Division of Developmental Biology, Children's Hospital Research Foundation, Cincinnati, Ohio 45229
                © 2000 The Rockefeller University Press
                Original Article

                Cell biology

                extracellular matrix, coagulation, schwann cells, ancrod, proteolysis


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