Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Anatomy and Neurobiology

First Advisor

Dr. Edward D. Hall


Lipid peroxidation is a key contributor to the pathophysiology of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Traditional antioxidant therapies are intended to scavenge the free radicals responsible for either the initiation or propagation of lipid peroxidation (LP). However, targeting free radicals after TBI is difficult as they rapidly react with other cellular macromolecules, and thus has a limited post-injury time window in which they may be intercepted by a radical scavenging agent. In contrast, our laboratory has begun testing an antioxidant approach that scavenges the final stages of LP i.e. formation of carbonyl-containing breakdown products. By scavenging breakdown products such as the highly reactive and neurotoxic aldehydes (often referred to as “carbonyls”) 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE) and acrolein (ACR), we are able to prevent the covalent modification of cellular proteins that are largely responsible for posttraumatic neurodegeneration. Without intervention, carbonyl additions render cellular proteins non-functional which initiates the loss of ionic homeostasis, mitochondrial failure, and subsequent neuronal death. Phenelzine (PZ) is an FDA-approved monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor traditionally used for the treatment of depression. Phenelzine also possesses a hydrazine functional group capable of covalently binding neurotoxic carbonyls. The hypothesis of this dissertation is that carbonyl scavenging with PZ will exert an antioxidant neuroprotective effect in the traumatically injured rat brain mechanistically related to PZ’s hydrazine moiety reacting with the lipid peroxidation (LP)-derived reactive aldehydes 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE) and acrolein (ACR). Data from our ex vivo experiments demonstrate that the exogenous application of 4-HNE or ACR significantly reduced respiratory function and increased markers of oxidative damage in isolated non-injured rat cortical mitochondria, whereas PZ pre-treatment significantly prevented mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative modification of mitochondrial proteins in a concentration-related manner. Additionally, PZ’s neuroprotective scavenging mechanism was confirmed to require the presence of a hydrazine moiety based on experiments with a structurally similar MAO inhibitor, pargyline, which lacks the hydrazine group and did not protect the isolated mitochondria from 4-HNE and ACR. Our in vivo work demonstrates that subcutaneous injections of PZ following TBI in the rat are able to significantly protect brain mitochondrial respiratory function, decrease markers of oxidative damage, protect mitochondrial calcium buffering capacity, and increase cortical tissue sparing without decreasing neuronal cytoskeletal spectrin degradation. These results confirm that PZ is capable of protecting mitochondrial function and providing neuroprotection after experimental TBI related to scavenging of neurotoxic LP degradation products.