Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Physiology and Biophysics (Medicine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Jacqueline Sagen

Second Committee Member

Bingren Hu

Third Committee Member

Daniel Liebl

Fourth Committee Member

John Barrett


Hyperthermia damages both developing and adult brains, especially when it occurs after ischemia or stroke. Work presented in this dissertation used in vitro models of these stresses to investigate mechanisms underlying damage to immature neurons and neural precursors cultured from embryonic rat brain. Studies described in Chapter 2 investigated the effects of a brief, intense hyperthermic stress (30-45 min at 43ºC). This stress produced a selective depletion of nestin-immunoreactive neural precursor cells, and reduced proliferation, as evidenced by reduced BrdU incorporation into young Tuj1-immunoreactive neurons. The stress activated caspase 3, and produced multiple signs of nuclear damage as well as early and persisting mitochondrial depolarization. Cycloheximide, an inhibitor of protein synthesis, reduced cell death. All these findings suggest an apoptotic death process. Studies described in Chapter 3 used a combination of oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD, 2 h) followed by mild 41ºC hyperthermia for 90 min (T). The combined OGDT stress reduced both survival in monolayer cultures and colony-forming ability in neurospheres. Cell death occurred gradually over 2 days, and was accompanied by caspase activation that began within 6 h post-stress. Post-stress application of cycloheximide or a general caspase inhibitor (especially qVD-OPH) reduced cell death, but specific inhibitors of caspases 2, 3, 8 or 9 were ineffective. OGDT led to upregulation of the pro-apoptotic protein Bim as well as redistribution of Bax from cytoplasm to mitochondria within 6 h. Persisting mitochondrial depolarization began within 3 h following the combined OGDT stress, but not following individual OGD or T stresses alone. These findings suggest that OGD sensitizes neural precursor cells to hyperthermia-induced damage, and that the combined OGDT stress kills neural precursors via apoptotic mechanisms that include activation of mitochondrial death pathways. Results of these studies suggest that immature neurons and neural precursors are especially vulnerable to hyperthermia-induced damage via apoptotic mechanisms. Pan-caspase inhibitors may be a promising therapeutic strategy to preserve viability of these cells following stroke with hyperthermia.


In Vitro Cultures; Mitochondrial Depolarization; Apoptosis; Neuroproliferation; Hyperthermia; Oxygen Glucose Deprivation; Neural Precursor Cells; Neurons; Stem Cells; Proliferation