Neuroregenerative and protective functions of Leukemia Inhibitory Factor in perinatal hypoxic-ischemic brain injury

Jie Lin, Yusuke Niimi, Mariano Guardia Clausi, Hur Dolunay Kanal, Steven W. Levison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy remains the most important neurological problem of the newborn. Delays in diagnosing perinatal brain injuries are common, preventing access to acute therapies. Therefore, there is a critical need for therapeutic strategies that are beneficial when delivered beyond 24 h after birth. Here we show that Leukemia Inhibitory Factor (LIF) functions as an essential injury-induced neurotrophic cytokine in the CNS and that non-invasively administering LIF as late as 3 days after a hypoxic-ischemic insult improves neurological function. Using a mouse model of late preterm brain injury we show that astroglial and microglial/macrophage reactivity to hypoxia-ischemia was diminished at 3 days of recovery, but then exacerbated at 2 weeks of recovery in LIF haplodeficient mice. There also were significantly more CD68+/Iba-1+ cells in the ipsilateral striatum in LIF-Het mice compared to WT mice at 2 weeks of recovery. This desynchronized glial response was accompanied by increased neuronal cell death in the striatum and neocortex (Fluorojade C), hypomyelination (reduced MBP staining and thinner external capsule), increased extent of brain damage (Nissl) and diminished neurological function on sensorimotor tests. To our surprise, injured LIF-Het mice had ~7-fold higher IGF-1 levels than injured WT mice at 3 days after H[sbnd]I injury. Intranasally administered LIF activated the Jak-Stat-3 pathway both within the subventricular zone and the neocortex at 30 min after administration. When delivered with a delay of 3 days after the insult, intranasal LIF reduced the extent of brain injury by ~60%, attenuated astrogliosis and microgliosis in striatum, improved subcortical white matter thickness, increased numbers of Olig2+ cells in corpus callosum and improved performance on sensorimotor tests at 2 weeks of recovery. These studies provide key pre-clinical data recommending LIF administration as a neuroprotectant and regenerative cytokine and they highlight the feasibility of pursuing new therapeutics targeting the tertiary phase of neurodegeneration for hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113324
JournalExperimental Neurology
StatePublished - Aug 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


  • Astrogliosis
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Microglia
  • Myelination
  • Neurodegeneration


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