Background and objectives: Spontaneously hypertensive stroke-prone rats (SHRSPs) develop hypertension, cerebrovascular abnormalities and a stroke phenotype in association with higher levels of proteinuria. Here, we focus on cerebral abnormalities preceding lesions detectable by MRI.
Methods: Longitudinal assessment of brain histology was performed in salt-loaded male SHRSPs (n = 26) and Wistar–Kyoto (WKY) normotensive control animals (n = 27). Groups of rats were sacrificed at different time points: Time 0, before the salt diet administration; Time 1, when proteinuria achieved 40 mg/day; Time 2, when proteinuria exceeded 100 mg/day.
Results: At Time 0, no brain lesions were observed. At Time 1, changes of the cortical penetrating arteries, vasogenic oedema, lacunae and focal cell loss appeared in SHRSPs and worsened at Time 2, although no lesions were yet detected by MRI. Staining for proliferation markers revealed a significant boost of cellular mitosis in the subventricular zone (SVZ) of SHRSPs. Moreover, we observed higher immunopositivity for nestin, glial fibrillary acidic protein and doublecortin (markers for neural stem cells, astrocytes and immature neurons, respectively). At Time 2, apoptotic caspase-3 as well as 4-hydroxynonenal-positive neurons were associated to decreased nestin and doublecortin staining. High expression levels of glial fibrillary acidic protein were maintained in the SVZ. No comparative alterations and SVZ activation were recorded in WKYs.
Conclusion: Appearance of vascular changes in SHRSPs, before any MRI-detectable brain lesion, is coupled to active neural proliferation in the SVZ. With disease progression, only newborn astrocytes can survive, likely because of the neurotoxicity triggered by brain oedema and oxidative stress.