BET protein inhibition promotes non-myeloid cell mediated neuroprotection after rodent spinal cord contusion

Susana R. Cerqueira, Sofia Benavides, Ha Eun Lee, Nagi G. Ayad, Jae K. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spinal cord injuries (SCI) often lead to multiple neurological deficits as a result from the initial trauma and also the secondary damage that follows. Despite abundant preclinical data proposing anti-inflammatory therapies to minimize secondary injury and improve functional recovery, the field still lacks an effective neuroprotective treatment. Epigenetic proteins, such as bromodomain and extraterminal domain (BET) proteins, are emerging as new targets to regulate inflammation. More importantly, pharmacological inhibition of BET proteins suppresses pro-inflammatory gene transcription after SCI. In this study, we tested the therapeutic potential of inhibiting BET proteins after SCI with clinically relevant compounds, and investigated the role of the BET protein BRD4 in macrophages during progression of SCI pathology. Systemic inhibition of BET proteins with I-BET762 significantly reduced lesion size 8 weeks after a contusion injury in rats. However, we observed no histological or locomotor improvements after SCI when we deleted Brd4 in macrophages through the use of myeloid-specific Brd4 knockout mice or after macrophage-targeted pharmacological BET inhibition. Taken together, our data indicate that systemic I-BET762 treatment is neuroprotective, and the histopathological improvement observed is likely to be a result of effects on non-macrophage targets. Expanding our understanding on the role of BET proteins after SCI is necessary to identify novel therapeutic targets that can effectively promote repair after SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114035
JournalExperimental neurology
StatePublished - Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • BET proteins
  • Brd4
  • Epigenetic inhibition
  • Inflammation
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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