Fractionated partial or whole-brain irradiation is the primary treatment for metastatic brain tumors. Despite reducing tumor burden and increasing lifespan, progressive, irreversible cognitive impairment occurs in >50% of the patients who survive >6 months after fractionated whole-brain irradiation. The exact mechanism(s) responsible for this radiation-induced brain injury are unknown; however, preclinical studies suggest that radiation modulates the extracellular receptor kinase signaling pathway, which is associated with cognitive impairment in many neurological diseases. In the study reported here, we demonstrated that the extracellular receptor kinase transcriptionally-regulated early response gene, Homer1a, was up-regulated transiently in the hippocampus and down-regulated in the cortex of young adult male Fischer 344 X Brown Norway rats at 48 h after 40 Gy of fractionated whole-brain irradiation. Two months after fractionated whole-brain irradiation, these changes in Homer1a expression correlated with a down-regulation of the hippocampal glutamate receptor 1 and protein kinase Cγ, and an up-regulation of cortical glutamate receptor 1 and protein kinase Cγ. Two drugs that prevent radiation-induced cognitive impairment in rats, the angiotensin type-1 receptor blocker, L-158,809, and the angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor, ramipril, reversed the fractionated whole-brain irradiation-induced Homer1a expression at 48 h in the hippocampus and cortex and restored glutamate receptor 1 and protein kinase Cγ to the levels in sham-irradiated controls at 2 months after fractionated whole-brain irradiation. These data indicate that Homer1a is, (1) a brain region specific regulator of radiation-induced brain injury, including cognitive impairment and (2) potentially a druggable target for preventing it.

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