Subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is still a major cause of morbidity and mortality. α-Melanocyte stimulating hormone (α-MSH) and other melanocortin peptides exert potent neuroprotective action and they might modulate key molecules involved in SAH-induced vasospasm. The aim of this research was to determine whether treatment with the α-MSH analog Nle4,DPhe7-α-MSH (NDP-MSH) exerts protective effects in experimental SAH in the rat. Initial experiments examined effects of NDP-MSH on the basilar artery phenotype in the absence of injury. In these tests intrathecal injection of small concentrations (10 ng) of the peptide induced a tolerant phenotype similar to that observed after ischemic preconditioning. Then the effect of systemic treatment with NDP-MSH (100 μg i.v.) on experimental SAH was evaluated. SAH was induced by a single-blood injection into the cisterna magna. The basilar artery phenotype was examined at 4 h and the artery caliber at 5 days following SAH. Expression of 96 genes was analyzed by real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) using Custom Taqman Low-Density Arrays. Four hours after SAH, the transcriptional profile of the basilar artery was deeply disrupted. Transcript alteration included genes involved in inflammation, stress response, apoptosis, and vascular remodeling. Treatment with NDP-MSH prevented most of these transcription changes and decreased phosphorylation of extracellular-signal-regulated kinases (ERK1/2) and inhibitor protein IκBα. Vasospasm on day 5 was significantly reduced by NDP-MSH administration. These results combine with others on CNS inflammation to suggest that the melanocortins could be safe and effective therapeutic candidates to treat SAH-related complications.Highlights
▸ Potential therapeutic action of NDP-MSH in experimental subarachnoid hemorrhage. ▸ NDP-MSH induces a tolerant phenotype in the basilar artery (BA). ▸ NDP-MSH prevents detrimental changes in gene expression profile in the BA after SAH. ▸ NDP-MSH reduces delayed vasospasm of the BA after SAH.