Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)


Biomedical Sciences

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Chuanfu Li

Committee Members

David L. Williams, John Kalbfleisch, Krishna Singh, Robert Wondergem


Innate immune and inflammatory responses contribute to myocardial and cerebral ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play a critical role in the induction of innate immune and inflammatory responses via activation of nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB). We have shown that activation of NF-κB contributes to myocardial and cerebral I/R injury. Indeed, inhibition of TLR4-mediated NF-κB activation significantly decreased myocardial and cerebral I/R injury via activation of PI3K/Akt signaling. PI3K/Akt signaling is an important pathway in regulating cellular survival and inflammatory responses. Therefore, an important question is how to differentially modulate PI3K/Akt signaling and TLR/NF-κB-mediated signaling pathway during I/R injury?

We demonstrated that pretreatment of mice with Pam3CSK4, a specific TLR2 ligand, significantly decreased cerebral I/R injury and improved neuronal functional recovery. Importantly, therapeutic administration of Pam3CSK4 also markedly decreased cerebral I/R injury. The mechanisms involved suppression of NF-κB binding activity and activation of PI3K/Akt signaling. We also demonstrated that CpG-ODN, a specific TLR9 ligand, induced protection against cerebral I/R injury via activation of PI3K/Akt signaling. Our findings were consistent with our previous reports showing that administration of Pam3CSK4 or CpG-ODN protected against myocardial I/R injury via a PI3K/Akt-dependent mechanism. In addition, we demonstrated for the first time that TLR3 located in endosomes played a deleterious role in myocardial I/R injury via activation of NF-κB.

To investigate how to activate PI3K/Akt signaling during I/R injury, we examined the role of microRNA (miRs) in regulating PI3K/Akt signaling during myocardial ischemic injury. We discovered that Pam3CSK4 or CpG-ODN treatment significantly increased the expression of miR-130a in the myocardium, while myocardial infarction markedly decreased the levels of miR-130a in the myocardium. The data indicated that miR-130a served a protective role in myocardial ischemic injury. Indeed, we demonstrated for the first time that increased expression of miR-130a significantly attenuated cardiac dysfunction and promoted angiogenesis after myocardial infarction. The mechanisms involved activation of PI3K/Akt signaling via targeting PTEN expression by microRNA-130a.

This dissertation discovers novel mechanisms of cerebral and myocardial ischemic injury and provides solid basis for developing new approaches for the treatment and management of stroke and heart attack patients.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.