Progressive Transcriptional Changes in the Amygdala Implicate Neuroinflammation in the Effects of Repetitive Low-Level Blast Exposure in Male Rats

Rita De Gasperi*, Miguel A. Gama Sosa, Georgina S. Perez Garcia, Gissel M. Perez, Rania Abutarboush, Usmah Kawoos, Jonathan K. Statz, Jacob Patterson, Patrick R. Hof, Pavel Katsel, David G. Cook, Stephen T. Ahlers, Gregory A. Elder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Chronic mental health problems are common among military veterans who sustained blast-related traumatic brain injuries. The reasons for this association remain unexplained. Male rats exposed to repetitive low-level blast overpressure (BOP) exposures exhibit chronic cognitive and post-Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-related traits that develop in a delayed fashion. We examined blast-induced alterations on the transcriptome in four brain areas (anterior cortex, hippocampus, amygdala, and cerebellum) across the time frame over which the PTSD-related behavioral phenotype develops. When analyzed at 6 weeks or 12 months after blast exposure, relatively few differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were found. However, longitudinal analysis of amygdala, hippocampus, and anterior cortex between 6 weeks and 12 months revealed blast-specific DEG patterns. Six DEGs (hyaluronan and proteoglycan link protein 1 [Hapln1], glutamate metabotropic receptor 2 [Grm2], purinergic receptor P2y12 [P2ry12], C-C chemokine receptor type 5 [Ccr5], phenazine biosynthesis-like protein domain containing 1 [Pbld1], and cadherin related 23 [Cdh23]) were found altered in all three brain regions in blast-exposed animals. Pathway enrichment analysis using all DEGs or those uniquely changed revealed different transcription patterns in blast versus sham. In particular, the amygdala in blast-exposed animals had a unique set of enriched pathways related to stress responses, oxidative phosphorylation, and mitochondrial dysfunction. Upstream analysis implicated tumor necrosis factor (TNF)α signaling in blast-related effects in amygdala and anterior cortex. Eukaryotic initiating factor eIF4E (EIF4e), an upstream regulator of P2ry12 and Ccr5, was predicted to be activated in the amygdala. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) validated longitudinal changes in two TNFα regulated genes (cathepsin B [Ctsb], Hapln1), P2ry12, and Grm2. These studies have implications for understanding how blast injury damages the brain and implicates inflammation as a potential therapeutic target.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-577
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • blast
  • male rats
  • neuroinflammation
  • post-Traumatic stress disorder
  • transcriptome
  • traumatic brain injury


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