The brain has the highest metabolic rate of all organs and depends predominantly on oxidative metabolism as a source of energy. Oxidative metabolism generates reactive oxygen species, which can damage all cellular components, including protein, lipids and nucleic acids. The processes of DNA repair normally remove spontaneous gene damage with few errors. However, cerebral ischemia followed by reperfusion leads to elevated oxidative stress and damage to genes in brain tissue despite a functional mechanism of DNA repair. These critical events occur at the same time as the expression of immediate early genes, the products of which trans-activate late effector genes that are important for sustaining neuronal viability. These findings open the possibility of applying genetic tools to identify molecular mechanisms of gene repair and to derive new therapies for stroke and brain injury.
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