Reversal of Age-Related Increase in Brain Protein Oxidation, Decrease in Enzyme Activity, and Loss in Temporal and Spatial Memory by Chronic Administration of the Spin-Trapping Compound N-Tert-Butyl-α- Phenylnitrone
Oxygen free radicals and oxidative events have been implicated as playing a role in bringing about the changes in cellular function that occur during aging. Brain readily undergoes oxidative damage, so it is important to determine if aging-induced changes in brain may be associated with oxidative events. Previously we demonstrated that brain damage caused by an ischemia/reperfusion insult involved oxidative events. In addition, pretreatment with the spin-trapping compound N-tert-butyl-alpha-phenylnitrone (PBN) diminished the increase in oxidized protein and the loss of glutamine synthetase (GS) activity that accompanied ischemia/reperfusion injury in brain. We report here that aged gerbils had a significantly higher level of oxidized protein as assessed by carbonyl residues and decreased GS and neutral protease activities as compared to young adult gerbils. We also found that chronic treatment with the spin-trapping compound PBN caused a decrease in the level of oxidized protein and an increase in both GS and neutral protease activity in aged Mongolian gerbil brain. In contrast to aged gerbils, PBN treatment of young adult gerbils had no significant effect on brain oxidized protein content or GS activity. Male gerbils, young adults (3 months of age) and retired breeders (15-18 months of age), were treated with PBN for 14 days with twice daily dosages of 32 mg/kg. If PBN administration was ceased after 2 weeks, the significantly decreased level of oxidized protein and increased GS and neutral protease activities in old gerbils changed in a monotonic fashion back to the levels observed in aged gerbils prior to PBN administration. We also report that old gerbils make more errors than young animals and that older gerbils treated with PBN made fewer errors in a radial arm maze test for temporal and spatial memory than the untreated aged controls. These data can be interpreted to indicate that oxidation of cellular proteins may be a critical determinant of brain function. Moreover, it also implies that there is an age-related increase in vulnerability of tissue to oxidation that can be modified by free radical trapping compounds.