Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) is a master regulator of cellular adaptation to hypoxia and has been suggested as a potent therapeutic target in cerebral ischemia. Here we show in an ischemic stroke model of rats that inhibiting HIF-1 and its downstream genes by 3-(5'-hydroxymethyl-2'-furyl)-1-benzylindazole (YC-1) significantly increases mortality and enlarges infarct volume evaluated by MRI and histological staining. Interestingly, the HIF-1 inhibition remarkably ameliorates ischemia-induced blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption determined by Evans blue leakage although it does not affect brain edema. The result demonstrates that HIF-1 inhibition has differential effects on ischemic outcomes and BBB permeability. It indicates that HIF-1 may have different functions in different brain cells. Further analyses show that ischemia upregulates HIF-1 and its downstream genes erythropoietin (EPO), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and glucose transporter (Glut) in neurons and brain endothelial cells and that YC-1 inhibits their expression. We postulate that HIF-1-induced VEGF increases BBB permeability while certain other proteins coded by HIF-1's downstream genes such as epo and glut provide neuroprotection in an ischemic brain. The results indicate that YC-1 lacks the potential as a cerebral ischemic treatment although it confers certain protection to the cerebral vascular system.
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