Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type





Anatomy and Neurobiology

First Advisor

Dr. Edward D. Hall


Peroxynitrite (PN, ONOO-), formed by nitric oxide radical (NO) and superoxide radical (O2•-), plays an important role in post-traumatic oxidative damage. In the early work, we determined the temporal characteristics of PN-derived oxidative damage in a rat spinal cord injury (SCI) model. Our results showed 3-nitrotyrosine (3-NT), a specific marker for PN, rapidly accumulated at early time points (1 hr, 3 hrs), after when it plateaued and the high level was sustained to 1 week post injury. The co-localization of 3-NT and lipid peroxidation derived-4-HNE observed in immunohistochemistry indicates PN is involved in lipid peroxidative as well as protein nitrative damage. PN-oxidative damage exacerbates intracellular Ca2+ overload, which activates Ca2+ dependent calpain-mediated cytoskeletal protein (α-spectrin) degradation. The 145 kD fragments of α-spectrin (SBDP 145), which are specifically generated by calpain, increased dramatically as early as 1 hr after injury although the peak increase did not occur until 72 hrs post injury. The high level waned back toward sham level at one week post injury.

We then carried out experiments to evaluate the beneficial effects of tempol, a scavenger of PN-derived radicals, following SCI. Three pathological events including PN-induced oxidative damage, mitochondrial dysfunction and cytoskeletal degradation were investigated. Immunoblotting and immunohistochemical studies indicated PN-mediated oxidative damage including protein nitration, protein oxidation and lipid peroxidation, were all reduced by a single dose of tempol (300mg/kg, i.p) after SCI. Spinal cord (SC) mitochondrial dysfunction in terms of the respiratory control ratio (RCR) significantly improved by both 150 mg/kg and 300 mg/kg tempol treatments. Moreover, calpain-mediated proteolysis was significantly decreased by tempol, with greater effects on calpain-specific SBDP 145 observed.

Direct PN-scavenging effect of tempol was confirmed in vitro. Exposure of healthy SC mitochondria to SIN-1, a PN donor in vitro, impaired mitochondrial respiration in a dose-dependent manner. Tempol was able to protect mitochondria against SIN-1-induced damage by improving mitochondrial function and decreasing mitochondrial 3-NT formation. These findings strongly support the concept that PN is a crucial player in the secondary damage following SCI. And tempol, by scavenging PN-induced free radicals, provides a promising pharmocotherapeutic strategy for treating acute SCI.