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Effects of local and systemic treatment with human natural killer-1 mimetic peptide (HNK-1) after ventral root avulsion and reimplantation in mice

Natalia Scanavachia da Silva1, Julia Lombardi1, Frank Kirchhoff2,3, Rui Seabra Ferreira Jr.4, Benedito Barraviera4, Alexandre Leite Rodrigues de Oliveira1, Luciana Politti Cartarozzi1 [ + show more ]

J Venom Anim Toxins incl Trop Dis, 2024, 30:e20230065
Received: 28 August 2023 | Accepted: 01 April 2024 | Published online: 20 May 2024


Background: Spinal ventral root injuries generate significant motoneuron degeneration, which hinders full functional recovery. The poor prognosis of functional recovery can be attributed to the use or combination of different therapeutic approaches. Several molecules have been screened as potential treatments in combination with surgical reimplantation of the avulsed roots, the gold standard approach for such injuries. Among the studied molecules, human natural killer-1 (HNK-1) stands out as it is related to the stimulation of motor axon outgrowth. Therefore, we aimed to comparatively investigate the effects of local administration of an HNK-1 mimetic peptide (mp-HNK-1) and systemic treatment with ursolic acid (UA), another HNK-1 mimetic, after ventral root avulsion and reimplantation with heterologous fibrin biopolymer (HFB). Methods: Female mice of the isogenic strain C57BL/6JUnib were divided into five experimental groups: Avulsion, Reimplantation, mp-HNK-1 (in situ), and UA (systemic treatment). Mice were evaluated 2 and 12 weeks after surgery. Functional assessment was performed every four days using the Catwalk platform. Neuronal survival was analyzed by cytochemistry, and glial reactions and synaptic coverage were evaluated by immunofluorescence. Results: Treatment with UA elicited long-term neuroprotection, accompanied by a decrease in microglial reactions, and reactive astrogliosis. The neuroprotective effects of UA were preceded by increased glutamatergic and GABAergic inputs in the ventral spinal cord two weeks after injury. However, a single application of mp-HNK-1 had no significant effects. Functional analysis showed that UA treatment led to an improvement in motor and sensory recovery. Conclusion: Overall, the results indicate that UA is neuroprotective, acting on glial cells and synaptic maintenance, and the combination of these findings led to a better functional recovery.


Keywords: HNK-1 mimetic peptide; Ursolic acid; Heterologous fibrin biopolymer; Neuroprotection; Immunomodulation.

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