Apelin-13 protects neurovascular unit against ischemic injuries through the effects of vascular endothelial growth factor

Chuyi Huang, Chuanfu Dai, Kai Gong, Huancong Zuo, Heling Chu
Neuropeptides 2016, 60: 67-74
Apelin-13 has protective effects on many neurological diseases, including cerebral ischemia. Here, we aimed to test Apelin-13's effects on ischemic neurovascular unit (NVU) injuries and investigate whether the effects were dependent on vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). We detected the expression of VEGF and its receptors (VEGFRs) induced by Apelin-13 injection at 1d, 3d, 7d and 14d after middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO). Meanwhile, we examined the effects of Apelin-13 on NVU in both in vivo and in vitro experiments as well as whether the effects were VEGF dependent by using VEGF antibody. We also assessed the related signal transduction pathways via multiple inhibitors. We demonstrated Apelin-13 highly increased VEGF and VEGFR-2 expression, not VEGFR-1. Importantly, Apelin-13 led to neurological functions improvement by associating with promotion of angiogenesis as well as reduction of neuronal death and astrocyte activation, which was markedly blocked by VEGF antibody. In cell cultures, Apelin-13 protected neurons, astrocytes and endothelial cells against oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD) injuries. Moreover, the effect of Apelin-13 to up-regulate VEGF was suppressed by extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) inhibitor U0126 and phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase (PI3K) inhibitor LY294002. Our data suggest protective effects of Apelin-13 on ischemic NVU injuries are highly associated with the increase of VEGF binding to VEGFR-2, possibly acting through activation of ERK and PI3K/Akt pathways.

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