Peripheral nerve injury is characterized as a common clinical problem. Ulinastatin (UTI) is a serine protease inhibitor with many biological activities including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Nonetheless, it is unknown whether UTI has a protective effect on peripheral nerve injury.
Thirty rats were divided into the sham operation group, the sciatic nerve injury group (injected with normal saline), and the UTI treatment group (80mg/kg/day for two consecutive weeks). Sciatic nerve function index (SFI) was used to assess the biological functions of the sciatic nerve, and compound muscle action potential (CMAP) was measured by electrophysiology. The expressions of let-7 miRNA members were detected by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). Nerve growth factor (NGF), nerve regeneration-related proteins GAP43 and NF200, and myelin formation-related proteins MAG and PMP22 expressions were explored by Western blot. After Schwann cells were transfected with let-7 mimics, pcDNA3.1-NGF, let-7 inhibitors, NGF siRNA and their corresponding controls, 5-ethynyl-2ʹ-deoxyuridine (EdU) assay, and Transwell assays were employed to investigate the proliferation and migration of Schwann cells. H 2O 2 was utilized to construct oxidative injury to cells, and the contents of MDA, SOD, GSH, and CAT were determined.
UTI treatment remarkably increased SFI of the rats and CMAP of sciatic nerve, enhanced nerve regeneration, and myelin regeneration, and raised the production of GAP43, NF200, MAG, and PMP22. Furthermore, it was found that UTI markedly reduced let-7 miRNAs’ expressions and increased NGF expression after sciatic nerve injury. The dual-luciferase reporter assay validated that let-7 miRNAs targeted NGF, and functional experiments demonstrated that low expression of let-7 miRNAs and NGF overexpression contributed to Schwann cells’ proliferation and migration. Additionally, UTI treatment repressed the oxidative stress regulated by let-7/NGF axis.