Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and ubiquitin C-Terminal hydrolase (UCH-L1), markers of glial and neuronal cell body injury, respectively, have been previously selected by the Operation Brain Trauma Therapy (OBTT) pre-clinical therapy and biomarker screening consortium as drug development tools. However, traumatic axonal injury (TAI) also represents a major consequence and determinant of adverse outcomes after traumatic brain injury (TBI). Thus, biomarkers capable of assessing TAI are much needed. Neurofilaments (NFs) are found exclusively in axons. Here, we evaluated phospho-neurofilament-H (pNF-H) protein as a possible new TAI marker in serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) across three rat TBI models in studies carried out by the OBTT consortium, namely, controlled cortical impact (CCI), parasagittal fluid percussion (FPI), and penetrating ballistics-like brain injury (PBBI). We indeed found that CSF and serum pNF-H levels are robustly elevated by 24 h post-injury in all three models. Further, in previous studies by OBTT, levetiracetam showed the most promising benefits, whereas nicotinamide showed limited benefit only at high dose (500 mg/kg). Thus, serum samples from the same repository collected by OBTT were evaluated. Treatment with 54 mg/kg intravenously of levetiracetam in the CCI model and 170 mg/kg in the PBBI model significantly attenuated pNF-H levels at 24 h post-injury as compared to respective vehicle groups. In contrast, nicotinamide (50 or 500 mg/kg) showed no reduction of pNF-H levels in CCI or PBBI models. Our current study suggests that pNF-H is a useful theranostic blood-based biomarker for TAI across different rodent TBI models. In addition, our data support levetiracetam as the most promising TBI drug candidate screened by OBTT to date.
- Controlled cortical impact
- Fluid percussion
- Penetrating ballistic-like brain injury