Cerebral ischaemia results in significant brain damage, but the molecular mechanisms associated with ischaemia-induced brain injury are not well defined. We have adopted an improved differential-display method to search for new ischaemia-related genes. Among the different cDNAs isolated following transient forebrain ischaemia in rat, PH3.3 was selected for further studies. The search for homologies revealed that it is the rat homologue to human zinc finger motif 1 (ZFM1), also called mammalian splicing factor 1 (SF1). With Northern blot, PH3.3 hybridized with three mRNA species of 2.3, 2.9 and 3.6 kb, significantly increased at 6 h and 5 days after the ischaemic insult. These findings were extended also to another animal model. In situ hybridization in ischaemic gerbils showed that PH3.3 mRNA was induced in the dentate gyrus as early as 4 h post-ischaemia. Expression peaked at 2 days in the whole hippocampus and cortex, and then progressively decreased towards sham levels. By day 4, expression had disappeared almost entirely from the cells in the CA1 region of the hippocampus, concomitant with the degeneration of pyramidal neurons. Interestingly, ZFM1/SF1 has been recently identified as activated following p53-induced apoptosis. Several lines of evidence suggest that p53 may play two roles in the post-ischaemic brain. The primary role of p53 is to activate DNA repair processes, but if repair fails, apoptosis will be initiated. Thus, ZFM1/SF1 may represent a relevant link between p53 and the neuroprotective/neurodegenerative processes which follow cerebral ischaemia.
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