Systemic inflammation induced from remote extremity trauma is a critical driver of secondary brain injury

Cassie J. Rowe, Josef Mang, Benjamin Huang, Kalpana Dommaraju, Benjamin K. Potter, Seth A. Schobel, Eric R. Gann, Thomas A. Davis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Blast exposure, commonly experienced by military personnel, can cause devastating life-threatening polysystem trauma. Despite considerable research efforts, the impact of the systemic inflammatory response after major trauma on secondary brain injury-inflammation is largely unknown. The aim of this study was to identify markers underlying the susceptibility and early onset of neuroinflammation in three rat trauma models: (1) blast overpressure exposure (BOP), (2) complex extremity trauma (CET) involving femur fracture, crush injury, tourniquet-induced ischemia, and transfemoral amputation through the fracture site, and (3) BOP+CET. Six hours post-injury, intact brains were harvested and dissected to obtain biopsies from the prefrontal cortex, striatum, neocortex, hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, hypothalamus, and cerebellum. Custom low-density microarray datasets were used to identify, interpret and visualize genes significant (p < 0.05 for differential expression [DEGs]; 86 neuroinflammation-associated) using a custom python-based computer program, principal component analysis, heatmaps and volcano plots. Gene set and pathway enrichment analyses of the DEGs was performed using R and STRING for protein-protein interaction (PPI) to identify and explore key genes and signaling networks. Transcript profiles were similar across all regions in naïve brains with similar expression levels involving neurotransmission and transcription functions and undetectable to low-levels of inflammation-related mediators. Trauma-induced neuroinflammation across all anatomical brain regions correlated with injury severity (BOP+CET > CET > BOP). The most pronounced differences in neuroinflammatory-neurodegenerative gene regulation were between blast-associated trauma (BOP, BOP+CET) and CET. Following BOP, there were few DEGs detected amongst all 8 brain regions, most were related to cytokines/chemokines and chemokine receptors, where PPI analysis revealed Il1b as a potential central hub gene. In contrast, CET led to a more excessive and diverse pro-neuroinflammatory reaction in which Il6 was identified as the central hub gene. Analysis of the of the BOP+CET dataset, revealed a more global heightened response (Cxcr2, Il1b, and Il6) as well as the expression of additional functional regulatory networks/hub genes (Ccl2, Ccl3, and Ccl4) which are known to play a critical role in the rapid recruitment and activation of immune cells via chemokine/cytokine signaling. These findings provide a foundation for discerning pathophysiological consequences of acute extremity injury and systemic inflammation following various forms of trauma in the brain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103878
JournalMolecular and Cellular Neuroscience
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • Blast
  • extremity trauma
  • Gene signatures
  • Neuroinflammation
  • RT-qPCR
  • Secondary brain injury


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