Post-blast treatment with Nociceptin/Orphanin FQ peptide (NOP) receptor antagonist reduces brain injury-induced hypoxia and signaling proteins in vestibulomotor-related brain regions

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Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) diagnoses have increased due to aggressive sports and blast-related injuries, but the cellular mechanisms and pathology underlying mTBI are not completely understood. Previous reports indicate that Nociceptin Orphanin/FQ (N/OFQ), an endogenous neuropeptide, contributes to post-injury ischemia following mechanical brain injury, yet its specific role in cerebral hypoxia, vestibulomotor function and injury marker expression following blast-induced TBI is not known. This study is the first to identify a direct association of N/OFQ and its N/OFQ peptide (NOP) receptor with TBI-induced changes following a single 80 psi head blast exposure in male rats. N/OFQ and NOP receptor expression increased in brain tissue and plasma following TBI, concurrent with vestibular dysfunction but preceding hypoxia and appearance of injury markers compared to sham rats. A single post-blast treatment with the NOP receptor antagonist, SB-612111, transiently improved acute vestibulomotor performance. It also prevented increases in markers of TBI-induced hypoxia, pro-apoptotic proteins and injury seen 8–10 days post-blast. This study reveals an apparent role for the N/OFQ-NOP receptor system in blast TBI and suggests potential therapeutic utility of NOP receptor antagonists for mTBI.

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