To evaluate the hypothesis that calpain 1 knockdown would reduce pathological damage and functional deficits after spinal cord injury (SCI), we developed lentiviral vectors encoding calpain 1 shRNA and eGFP as a reporter (LV-CAPN1 shRNA). The ability of LV-CAPN1 shRNA to knockdown calpain 1 was confirmed in rat NRK cells using Northern and Western blot analysis. To investigate the effects on spinal cord injury, LV-CAPN1shRNA or LV-mismatch control shRNA (LV-control shRNA) were administered by convection enhanced diffusion at spinal cord level T10 in Long-Evans female rats (200–250 g) 1 week before contusion SCI, 180 kdyn force, or sham surgery at the same thoracic level. Intraspinal administration of the lentiviral particles resulted in transgene expression, visualized by eGFP, in spinal tissue at 2 weeks after infection. Calpain 1 protein levels were reduced by 54% at T10 2 weeks after shRNA-mediated knockdown (p<0.05, compared with the LV-control group, n=3 per group) while calpain 2 levels were unchanged. Intraspinal administration of LV-CAPN1shRNA 1 week before contusion SCI resulted in a significant improvement in locomotor function over 6 weeks postinjury, compared with LV-control administration (p<0.05, n=10 per group). Histological analysis of spinal cord sections indicated that pre-injury intraspinal administration of LV-CAPN1shRNA significantly reduced spinal lesion volume and improved total tissue sparing, white matter sparing, and gray matter sparing (p<0.05, n=10 per group). Together, results support the hypothesis that calpain 1 activation contributes to the tissue damage and impaired locomotor function after SCI, and that calpain1 represents a potential therapeutic target.

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Published in Journal of Neurotrauma, v. 30, no. 6, p. 427-433.

This is a copy of an article published in the Journal of Neurotrauma (c), 2013, copyright Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.; Journal of Neurotrauma is available online at: http://online.liebertpub.com.

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