Dataset for: Pharmacological induction of Heat Shock Protein 70 by celastrol protects motoneurons from excitotoxicity in the rat spinal cord in vitro

The secondary phase of spinal cord injury arising after the primary lesion largely extends the damage severity with delayed negative consequences for sensory-motor pathways. It is, therefore, important to find out if enhancing intrinsic mechanisms of neuroprotection can spare motoneurons that are very vulnerable cells. This issue was investigated with an in vitro model of rat spinal cord excitotoxicity monitored for up to 24 h after the primary injury evoked by kainate. The present study sought to pharmacologically boost the expression of heat shock proteins (HSP) to protect spinal motoneurons using celastrol to investigate if the rat spinal cord can upregulate HSP as neuroprotective mechanism. Despite its narrow range of drug safety in vitro, celastrol was not toxic to the rat spinal cord at 0.75 M concentration and enhanced the expression of HSP70 by motoneurons. When celastrol was applied either before or after kainate, the number of dead motoneurons was significantly decreased and the nuclear localization of the cell death biomarker AIF strongly inhibited. Nevertheless, electrophysiological recording showed that protection of lumbar motor networks by celastrol was rather limited as reflex activity was impaired and fictive locomotion largely depressed, suggesting that functional deficit persisted, though the networks could express slow rhythmic oscillations. While our data do not exclude further recovery at later times beyond the experimental observations, the present results indicates that upregulated expression of HSP in the aftermath of acute injury may be an interesting avenue for early protection of spinal motoneurons.