Objective: To determine whether the NAD+ biosynthetic protein, nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyltransferase-3 (NMNAT3), is a neuroprotective inducible enzyme capable of decreasing cerebral injury after neonatal hypoxia-ischemia (H-I) and reducing glutamate receptor-mediated excitotoxic neurodegeneration of immature neurons. Methods: Using NMNAT3-overexpressing mice we investigated whether increases in brain NMNAT3 reduced cerebral tissue loss following H-I. We then employed biochemical methods from injured neonatal brains to examine the inducibility of NMNAT3 and the mechanism of NMNAT3-dependent neuroprotection. Using AAV8-mediated vectors for in vitro neuronal NMNAT3 knockdown, we then examine the endogenous role of this protein on immature neuronal survival prior and following NMDA receptor-mediated excitotoxicity. Results: NMNAT3 mRNA and protein levels increased after neonatal H-I. In addition, NMNAT3 overexpression decreased cortical and hippocampal tissue loss 7 days following injury. We further show that the NMNAT3 neuroprotective mechanism involves a decrease in calpastatin degradation, and a decrease in caspase-3 activity and calpain-mediated cleavage. Conversely, NMNAT3 knockdown of cortical and hippocampal neurons in vitro caused neuronal degeneration and increased excitotoxic cell death. The neurodegenerative effects of NMNAT3 knockdown were counteracted by exogenous upregulation of NMNAT3. Conclusions: Our observations provide new insights into the neuroprotective mechanisms of NMNATs in the injured developing brain, adding NMNAT3 as an important neuroprotective enzyme in neonatal H-I via inhibition of apoptotic and necrotic neurodegeneration. Interestingly, we find that endogenous NMNAT3 is an inducible protein important for maintaining the survival of immature neurons. Future studies aimed at uncovering the mechanisms of NMNAT3 upregulation and neuroprotection may offer new therapies against the effects of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)722-738
Number of pages17
JournalAnnals of Clinical and Translational Neurology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2017


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