Intracellular acidosis in the ischemic penumbra can contribute to further cell death, effectively enlarging the infarct core. Restoring the acid-base balance may enhance tissue survivability after cerebral ischemia.
This study investigated whether translocating protons out of penumbral neurons could mitigate tissue acidification and induce neuroprotection in a rodent model of acute cerebral ischemia.
We modulated the penumbral neurons via a light-driven pump to translocate protons out (i.e., archaerhodopsin/ArchT group) or into (i.e., channelrhodopsin-2/ChR2 group) neurons after focal cerebral ischemia in rats. Intracellular pH values were imaged via neutral red (NR) fluorescence and cerebral blood flow (CBF) was monitored through laser speckle contrast imaging (LSCI). Global CBF responses to electrical stimulation of the hindlimbs were obtained 24 h and 48 h after ischemia to assess neurological function. Behavioral and histological outcomes were evaluated 48 h after ischemia. A control group without gene modification was included.
The reduction of relative pH (R), the amplitude of negative peak of hypoemic response (R) and the hemispheric lateralization index (LI) in ArchT group were significantly less than those of the ChR2 or control group. Moreover, R was strongly correlated with R (r = 0.60) and LI (r = 0.80, r = 0.59). In addition, behavioral and histological results supported a neuroprotective effect of countering neuronal acidosis in penumbra through optogenetic stimulation.
These results indicate that countering intracellular acidosis by optogenetically translocating protons out of penumbral neurons during the acute ischemic stage could induce protection after ischemic brain injury.

Copyright © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.