Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type





Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. James R Pauly


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and long-term disability worldwide, and survivors are often left with cognitive deficits and significant problems with day to day tasks. To date, therapeutic pharmacological treatments of TBI remain elusive despite numerous clinical trials. An improved understanding of the molecular and cellular response to injury may help guide future treatment strategies. One promising marker for brain injury is the translocator protein (TSPO), which is normally expressed at a low level, but is highly expressed following brain damage and is associated with neuroinflammation. The isoquinoline carboxamide PK11195 binds selectively to the TSPO in many species, and has therefore become the most-studied TSPO ligand. To characterize the time-course of TSPO expression in the controlled cortical injury (CCI) model of TBI we subjected Sprague-Dawley rats to CCI and euthanatized them after 30 minutes, 12 hours, 1, 2, 4, or 6 days. Autoradiography with radiolabelled PK11195 was used to assess the time-course of TSPO binding following CCI. Autoradiographs were compared to adjacent tissue slices stained with the microglia/macrophage marker ED-1, with which a moderate positive correlation was discovered. PK11195 autoradiography was used as a tool with which to assess neuroinflammation following CCI and the administration of an α7 nAChR antagonist, methyllycaconitine (MLA). We hypothesized that blocking the calcium permeable α7 nAChR after brain injury would have a neuroprotective effect by attenuating excitotoxicity in the shortterm. Our study revealed clear dose-dependent tissue sparing in rats administered MLA after trauma and a modest improvement in functional outcome. The relatively modest recovery of function with MLA, which could be due to prolonged α7 nAChR blockade or downregulation lead us to explore the potential of α7 nAChR partial agonists in treating TBI. The α7 nAChR partial agonists tropisetron, ondansetron, and DMXB-A produced a moderate attenuation of cognitive deficits, but did not have a neuroprotective effect on tissue sparing. These studies show that following TBI, α7 nAChR modulation can have neuroprotective effects and attenuate cognitive deficits. Whether this modulation is best achieved through partial agonist treatment alone or a combination antagonist/agonist treatment remains to be determined.



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