Induction of the Wnt antagonist, Dickkopf-1, contributes to the development of neuronal death in models of brain focal ischemia

Federica Mastroiacovo, Carla L. Busceti, Francesca Biagioni, Slavianka G. Moyanova, Miriam H. Meisler, Giuseppe Battaglia, Andrea Caricasole, Valeria Bruno, Ferdinando Nicoletti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Inhibition of the canonical Wnt pathway has been implicated in the pathophysiology of neuronal death. Here, we report that the secreted Wnt antagonist, Dickkopf-1 (Dkk-1) is rapidly induced in neurons after induction of focal brain ischemia. In rats undergoing transient focal ischemia in response to brain infusion of endothelin-1, Dkk-1 was induced in neurons of the ischemic core and the penumbra region. Induction of Dkk-1 was associated with a reduced expression of β-catenin (a downstream signaling molecule of the canonical Wnt pathway), and was not observed in neurons expressing the protective protein, heat shock protein-70. Treatment with lithium ions, which, inter alia, rescue the canonical Wnt pathway, was highly protective against ischemic damage. Dkk-1 was also induced in cortical neurons of mice undergoing permanent middle cerebral artery (MCA) occlusion. This model allowed us to compare wild-type mice with doubleridge mice, which are characterized by a reduced expression of Dkk-1. Doubleridge mice showed an attenuated reduction of β-catenin and a reduced infarct volume in response to MCA occlusion, providing a direct demonstration that Dkk-1 contributes to the pathophysiology of ischemic neuronal damage. These data rise the interesting possibility that Dkk-1 antagonists or drugs that rescue the Wnt pathway might be neuroprotective in stroke.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-276
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009


  • Dickkopf-1
  • Focal ischemia
  • Hypoxia
  • Lithium
  • Neuroprotection
  • Penumbra

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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