Intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) in preterm infants leads to cerebral inflammation, reduced myelination of the white matter, and neurological deficits. No therapeutic strategy exists against the IVH-induced white matter injury. AMPA-kainate receptor induced excitotoxicity contributes to oligodendrocyte precursor cell (OPC) damage and hypomyelination in both neonatal and adult models of brain injury. Here, we hypothesized that IVH damages white matter via AMPA receptor activation, and that AMPA-kainate receptor inhibition suppresses inflammation and restores OPC maturation, myelination, and neurologic recovery in preterm newborns with IVH. We tested these hypotheses in a rabbit model of glycerol-induced IVH and evaluated the expression of AMPA receptors in autopsy samples from human preterm infants. GluR1-GluR4 expressions were comparable between preterm humans and rabbits with and without IVH. However, GluR1 and GluR2 levels were significantly lower in the embryonic white matter and germinal matrix relative to the neocortex in both infants with and without IVH. Pharmacological blockade of AMPA-kainate receptors with systemic NBQX, or selective AMPA receptor inhibition by intramuscular perampanel restored myelination and neurologic recovery in rabbits with IVH. NBQX administration also reduced the population of apoptotic OPCs, levels of several cytokines (TNFα, IL-α IL-6, LIF), and the density of Iba1+ microglia in pups with IVH. Additionally, NBQX treatment inhibited STAT-3 phosphorylation, but not astrogliosis or transcription factors regulating gliosis. Our data suggest that AMPA-kainate receptor inhibition alleviates OPC loss and IVH-induced inflammation and restores myelination and neurologic recovery in preterm rabbits with IVH. Therapeutic use of FDA-approved perampanel treatment might enhance neurologic outcome in premature infants with IVH.
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