A relationship has been found between peripheral thermal injury and cerebral complications leading to injury and death. In the present study, the authors examined whether tumor necrosis factor–α (TNF-α) and matrix metalloproteinase–9 (MMP-9) play a causative role in blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption after peripheral thermal injury.
Thirty-two male Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to thermal injury. One hour later, 8 rats were injected with TNF-α neutralizing antibody, and 8 were injected with doxycycline, an inhibitor of the MMP family proteins; 16 rats did not receive any treatment. Brain tissue samples obtained 7 hours after injury in the treated animals were examined for BBB function by using fluorescein isothiocyanate–dextran and by assessing parenchymal water content. Protein expression of basement membrane components (collagen IV, laminin, and fibronectin) was quantified on Western blot analysis, and MMP-9 protein expression and enzyme activity were determined using Western blot and gelatin zymography. Thermally injured rats that did not receive treatment were killed at 3, 7, or 24 hours after injury and tested for BBB functioning at each time point. Histological analysis for basement membrane proteins was also conducted in untreated rats killed at 7 hours after injury. Results of testing in injured rats were compared with those obtained in a control group of rats that did not undergo thermal injury.
At 7 hours after thermal injury, a significant increase in the fluorescein isothiocyanate–dextran and water content of the brain was found (p < 0.05), but BBB dysfunction was significantly decreased in the rats that received TNF-α antibody or doxycycline (p < 0.05). In addition, the components of the basal lamina were significantly decreased at 7 hours after thermal injury (p < 0.01), and there were significant increases in MMP-9 protein expression and enzyme activity (p < 0.05). The basal lamina damage was reversed by inhibition of TNF-α and MMP-9, and the increase in MMP-9 protein was reduced in the presence of doxycycline (p < 0.05). The authors found that MMP-9 enzyme activity was significantly increased after thermal injury (p < 0.01) but decreased in the presence of either TNF-α antibody or doxycycline (p < 0.01).
The dual, inhibitory activity of both TNF-α and MMP-9 in brain injury suggests that a TNF-α and MMP-9 cascade may play a key role in BBB disruption. These results offer a better understanding of the pathophysiology of burn injuries, which may open new avenues for burn treatment beyond the level of current therapies.