Neuroprotective activity of leukemia inhibitory factor is relayed through myeloid zinc finger-1 in a rat model of stroke

  • Stephanie M. Davis
  • Lisa A. Collier
  • Elspeth A. Foran
  • Christopher C. Leonardo
  • Craig T. AjmoJr
  • Keith R. Pennypacker
Original Article


The aim of this study was to determine whether leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) exerts its neuroprotective effects through signal transduction of the transcription factor myeloid zinc finger-1 (MZF-1). According to the hypothesis of this study, MZF-1 mediates LIF-induced neuroprotective signaling during ELVO through increased expression and transcriptional activity. To determine the in vivo role of MZF-1 in LIF-induced neuroprotection, we used Genomatix software was used to MZF-1 sites in the promoter region of the rat superoxide dismutase 3 (SOD3) gene. Stroke was induced via middle cerebral artery occlusion, and animals were administered PBS or 125 μg/kg LIF at 6, 24, and 48 h after the injury. MZF-1 binding activity was measured using electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) and its expression/localization were determined using western blot and immunohistochemical analysis. To determine whether MZF-1 relays LIF-induced neuroprotection in vitro, primary cultured neurons were subjected to oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD) after treatment with PBS or LIF. MZF-1 expression was measured in vitro using real time PCR and immunohistochemical staining. Transfection with siRNA was used to determine whether LIF protected cultured neurons against OGD after silencing MZF-1 expression. Four MZF-1 binding sites were identified by Genomatix, and EMSA confirmed in vivo binding activity in brain after MCAO. LIF significantly increased MZF-1 protein levels compared to PBS treatment at 72 h post-MCAO. In vivo nuclear localization of MZF-1 as well as co-localization of SOD3 and MZF-1 was observed in the cortical neurons of LIF-treated rats. Primary cultured neurons treated with LIF had significantly higher levels of MZF-1 mRNA and protein after LIF treatment compared to neurons treated with PBS. Finally, knockdown MZF-1 using siRNA counteracted the neuroprotective effects of LIF in vitro. These data demonstrate that LIF-mediated neuroprotection is dependent upon MZF-1 activity. Furthermore, these findings identify a novel neuroprotective pathway that employs MZF-1, a transcription factor associated with hematopoietic gene expression.


Transcription factors Ischemia Stroke Antioxidants Cytokines Neurosurvival 



emergent large vessel occlusion


endovascular thrombectomy


lactate dehydrogenase


leukemia inhibitory factor


middle cerebral artery occlusion


myeloid zinc finger-1


neuronal nuclear antigen


superoxide dismutase 3


transcription factor


tissue plasminogen activator



The authors would like to acknowledge Dr. Jerome Breslin at the University of South Florida for the use of his laboratory’s Nucleofector™ device as well as Dr. Chris Katnik for his assistance in the isolation of primary rat neurons.


Funding for the experiments detailed in this paper was provided by the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke [Grants: 1R21NS078517–01, 1R56NS091146–01, and 1R01NS091146-01].

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephanie M. Davis
    • 1
  • Lisa A. Collier
    • 1
  • Elspeth A. Foran
    • 2
  • Christopher C. Leonardo
    • 3
  • Craig T. AjmoJr
    • 3
  • Keith R. Pennypacker
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of NeurologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Molecular MedicineUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Molecular Pharmacology and PhysiologyUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  4. 4.Department of NeuroscienceUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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