Balasubramanian, Nagalakshmi and Sagarkar, Sneha and Choudhary, Amit G andKokare, Dadasaheb M and Sakharkar, Amul J
The recurrent events of mild trauma exacerbate the vulnerability for post-traumatic stress disorder; however, the underlying molecular mechanisms are scarcely known. The repeated mild traumatic brain injury (rMTBI) perturbs redox homeostasis which is primarily managed by superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2). The current study investigates the role of DNA methylation in SOD2 gene regulation and its involvement in rMTBI-induced persistent neuropathology inflicted by weight drop injury paradigm. The oxidative damage, neurodegenerative indicators, and SOD2 function and its regulation in the hippocampus were analyzed after 48 h and 30 days of rMTBI. The temporal and episodic increase in ROS levels (oxidative stress) heightened 8-hydroxyguanosine levels indicating oxidative damage after rMTBI that was concomitant with decline in SOD2 function. In parallel, occupancy of DNMT3b at SOD2 promoter was higher post 30 days of the first episode of rMTBI causing hypermethylation at SOD2 promoter. This epigenetic silencing of SOD2 promoter was sustained after the second episode of rMTBI causing permanent blockade in SOD2 response. The resultant oxidative stress further culminated into the increasing number of degenerating neurons. The treatment with 5-azacytidine, a pan DNMT inhibitor, normalized DNA methylation levels and revived SOD2 function after the second episode of rMTBI. The release of blockade in SOD2 expression by DNMT inhibition also normalized the post-traumatic oxidative consequences and relieved the neurodegeneration and deficits in learning and memory as measured by novel object recognition test. In conclusion, DNMT3b-mediated DNA methylation plays a critical role in SOD2 gene regulation in the hippocampus, and the perturbations therein post rMTBI are detrimental to redox homeostasis manifesting into neurological consequences.