NAAG peptidase inhibitor improves motor function and reduces cognitive dysfunction in a model of TBI with secondary hypoxia

Gene G. Gurkoff, Jun Feng Feng, Ken C. Van, Ali Izadi, Rahil Ghiasvand, Kiarash Shahlaie, Minsoo Song, David A. Lowe, Jia Zhou, Bruce G. Lyeth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Immediately following traumatic brain injury (TBI) and TBI with hypoxia, there is a rapid and pathophysiological increase in extracellular glutamate, subsequent neuronal damage and ultimately diminished motor and cognitive function. N-acetyl-aspartyl glutamate (NAAG), a prevalent neuropeptide in the CNS, is co-released with glutamate, binds to the presynaptic group II metabotropic glutamate receptor subtype 3 (mGluR3) and suppresses glutamate release. However, the catalytic enzyme glutamate carboxypeptidase II (GCP II) rapidly hydrolyzes NAAG into NAA and glutamate. Inhibition of the GCP II enzyme with NAAG peptidase inhibitors reduces the concentration of glutamate both by increasing the duration of NAAG activity on mGluR3 and by reducing degradation into NAA and glutamate resulting in reduced cell death in models of TBI and TBI with hypoxia. In the following study, rats were administered the NAAG peptidase inhibitor PGI-02776 (10 mg/kg) 30 min following TBI combined with a hypoxic second insult. Over the two weeks following injury, PGI-02776-treated rats had significantly improved motor function as measured by increased duration on the rota-rod and a trend toward improved performance on the beam walk. Furthermore, two weeks post-injury, PGI-02776-treated animals had a significant decrease in latency to find the target platform in the Morris water maze as compared to vehicle-treated animals. These findings demonstrate that the application of NAAG peptidase inhibitors can reduce the deleterious motor and cognitive effects of TBI combined with a second hypoxic insult in the weeks following injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-107
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Research
StatePublished - Jun 17 2013


  • Behavior
  • Excitotoxicity N- acetylaspartylglutamate (NAAG)
  • Hypoxia
  • Pre-clinical
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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