With-no-lysine kinase 3 (WNK3) is a key regulator of chloride ion transport and neuronal survival in diverse cell types. WNK3 was previously found to regulate the activity of Na-K-2Cl cotransporter-1 (NKCC1) in ischemia-associated brain damage. However, the role of WNK3 in traumatic brain injury (TBI) has not yet been studied. A weight-drop TBI model was established in Sprague-Dawley rats. Overexpression and specific inhibition were used to investigate the role of WNK3 in TBI via Western blot, immunofluorescence, neuronal apoptosis, brain water content, and neurological score analyses. We found pronounced TBI-induced downregulation of WNK3 expression and upregulation of NKCC1 expression in neurons, especially at 48 h. Overexpression of WNK3 significantly ameliorated neuronal apoptosis, blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption, brain edema and neurological deficits at 48 h after TBI. These effects were concomitant with reductions in p-NKCC1 and phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (p-ERK1/2) expression. Furthermore, bumetanide administration enhanced the neuroprotective effects of WNK3 overexpression against brain injury. Thus, WNK3 plays a neuroprotective role in TBI, and overexpression of WNK3 may increase cell resistance to apoptotic insults and brain edema, thereby alleviating secondary brain injury.
Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Ltd.