The cytokine leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) modulates neuronal function during development and promotes neuronal survival after peripheral nerve injury, but little is known about LIF expression after cerebral ischemia. In the present study, the localization of LIF protein was immunohistochemically examined in rats after 3.5, 12, 24, 48, and 96 hours of reperfusion following 1.5 hours of middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) induced by the intraluminal suture method. Double-staining immunohistochemistry with microtubule-associated protein-2 (MAP2), glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), lectin histochemistry, and interleukin (IL) 6 was also performed. The sham group and immunosorption test did not show any clear LIF immunoreactivity. Definite LIF immunoreactivity was first detected after 12 hours of reperfusion in each of the brain regions examined: ischemic core, periinfarct region, and contralateral cortex. However, expression of LIF was most prominent in the periinfarct region at each time point, peaked at 24 hours, and then gradually declined until 96 hours of reperfusion. Some LIF-positive neurons in the periinfarct region expressed IL-6. At 96 hours of reperfusion, GFAP-labeled astrocytes around the infarct core also expressed LIF protein. Induction of LIF mRNA and protein was also confirmed by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction and western blot analysis, respectively. These findings suggest that LIF expression in ischemically threatened neurons may reflect a repair or defense mechanism against the ischemic insult.
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