Pharmacologic modulation of brain metabolism by valproic acid can induce a neuroprotective environment

Umar F. Bhatti, Alla Karnovsky, Isabel S. Dennahy, Maureen Kachman, Aaron M. Williams, Vahagn C. Nikolian, Ben E. Biesterveld, Ali Siddiqui, Rachel L. O’Connell, Baoling Liu, Yongqing Li, Hasan B. Alam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of trauma-related morbidity and mortality. Valproic acid (VPA) has been shown to attenuate brain lesion size and swelling within the first few hours following TBI. Because injured neurons are sensitive to metabolic changes, we hypothesized that VPA treatment would alter the metabolic profile in the perilesional brain tissues to create a neuroprotective environment. METHODS: We subjected swine to combined TBI (12-mm cortical impact) and hemorrhagic shock (40% blood volume loss and 2 hours of hypotension) and randomized them to two groups (n = 5/group): (1) normal saline (NS; 3× hemorrhage volume) and (2) NS-VPA (NS, 3× hemorrhage volume; VPA, 150 mg/kg). After 6 hours, brains were harvested, and 100 mg of the perilesional tissue was used for metabolite extraction. Samples were analyzed using reversed-phase liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry in positive and negative ion modes, and data were analyzed using MetaboAnalyst software (McGill University, Quebec, Canada). RESULTS: In untargeted reversed-phase liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry analysis, we detected 3,750 and 1,955 metabolites in positive and negative ion modes, respectively. There were no significantly different metabolites in positive ion mode; however, 167 metabolite features were significantly different (p < 0.05) in the negative ion mode, which included VPA derivates. Pathway analysis showed that several pathways were affected in the treatment group, including the biosynthesis of unsaturated fatty acids (p = 0.001). Targeted amino acid analysis on glycolysis/ tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle revealed that VPA treatment significantly decreased the levels of the excitotoxic amino acid serine (p = 0.001). CONCLUSION: Valproic acid can be detected in perilesional tissues in its metabolized form. It also induces metabolic changes in the brains within the first few hours following TBI to create a neuroprotective environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-514
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Histone deacetylation
  • metabolomics
  • swine
  • traumatic brain injury
  • valproic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Surgery


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