BACKGROUND: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the leading causes of disability and death among young people. Although much is already known about secondary brain damage the full range of brain tissue responses to TBI remains to be elucidated. A population of neurons located in cerebral areas associated with higher cognitive functions harbours a vesicular zinc pool co-localized with glutamate. This zinc enriched pool of synaptic vesicles has been hypothesized to take part in the injurious signalling cascade that follows pathological conditions such as seizures, ischemia and traumatic brain injury. Pathological release of excess zinc ions from pre-synaptic vesicles has been suggested to mediate cell damage/death to postsynaptic neurons.
METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: In order to substantiate the influence of vesicular zinc ions on TBI, we designed a study in which damage and zinc movements were analysed in several different ways. Twenty-four hours after TBI ZnT3-KO mice (mice without vesicular zinc) were compared to littermate Wild Type (WT) mice (mice with vesicular zinc) with regard to histopathology. Furthermore, in order to evaluate a possible neuro-protective dimension of chemical blocking of vesicular zinc, we treated lesioned mice with either DEDTC or selenite. Our study revealed that chemical blocking of vesicular zinc ions, either by chelation with DEDTC or accumulation in zinc-selenium nanocrystals, worsened the effects on the aftermath of TBI in the WT mice by increasing the number of necrotic and apoptotic cells within the first 24 hours after TBI, when compared to those of chemically untreated WT mice.
CONCLUSION/SIGNIFICANCE: ZnT3-KO mice revealed more damage after TBI compared to WT controls. Following treatment with DEDTC or selenium an increase in the number of both dead and apoptotic cells were seen in the controls within the first 24 hours after TBI while the degree of damage in the ZnT3-KO mice remained largely unchanged. Further analyses revealed that the damage development in the two mouse strains was almost identical after either zinc chelation or zinc complexion therapy.