Osteopontin (OPN), a large secreted glycoprotein with an arginine, glycine, aspartate (RGD) motif, can bind and signal through cellular integrin receptors. We have shown previously that OPN enhances neuronal survival in the setting of ischemia. Here, we sought to increase the neuroprotective potency of OPN and improve the method of delivery with the goal of identifying a treatment for stroke in humans. We show that thrombin cleavage of OPN improves its ability to ligate integrin receptors and its neuroprotective capacity in models of ischemia. Thrombin-cleaved OPN is a twofold more effective neuroprotectant than the untreated molecule. We also tested whether OPN could be administered intranasally and found that it is efficiently targeted to the brain via intranasal delivery. Furthermore, intranasal administration of thrombin-treated OPN confers protection against ischemic brain injury. Osteopontin mimetics based on the peptide sequences located either N or C terminal to the thrombin cleavage site were generated and tested in models of ischemia. Treatment with successively shorter N-terminal peptides and a phosphorylated C-terminal peptide provided significant neuroprotection against ischemic injury. These findings show that OPN mimetics offer promise for development into new drugs for the treatment of stroke.
Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States, yet no drugs are available that are proven to improve recovery. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor stimulates neurogenesis and plasticity, processes that are implicated in stroke recovery. It binds to both the tropomyosin-related kinase B and p75 neurotrophin receptors. However, brain-derived neurotrophic factor is not a feasible therapeutic agent, and no small molecule exists that can reproduce its binding to both receptors. We tested the hypothesis that a small molecule (LM22A-4) that selectively targets tropomyosin-related kinase B would promote neurogenesis and functional recovery after stroke.