Hydrogen-rich saline regulates NLRP3 inflammasome activation in sepsis-associated encephalopathy rat model

Sepsis-associated encephalopathy (SAE) is characterised by long-term cognitive impairment and psychiatric illness in sepsis survivors, associated with increased morbidity and mortality. There is a lack of effective therapeutics for SAE. Molecular hydrogen (H2) plays multiple roles in septic diseases by regulating neuroinflammation, reducing oxidative stress parameters, regulating signalling pathways, improving mitochondrial dysfunction, and regulating astrocyte and microglia activation. Here we report the protective effect of hydrogen-rich saline in the juvenile SAE rat model and its possible underlying mechanisms. Rats were injected intraperitoneally with lipopolysaccharide at a dose of 5 mg/kg to induce sepsis; Hydrogen-rich saline (HRS) was administered 1 h after LPS induction at a dose of 5 ml/kg and nigericin at 1 mg/kg 1 h before LPS injection. H&E staining for neuronal damage, TUNEL assay for detection of apoptotic cells, immunofluorescence, ELISA protocol for inflammatory cytokines and 8-OHdG determination and western blot analysis to determine the effect of HRS in LPS-induced septic rats. Rats treated with HRS showed decreased TNF-α and IL-1β expression levels. HRS treatment enhanced the activities of antioxidant enzymes (SOD, CAT and GPX) and decreased MDA and MPO activities. The number of MMP-9 and NLRP3 positive immunoreactivity cells decreased in the HRS-treated group. Subsequently, GFAP, IBA-1 and CD86 immunoreactivity were reduced, and CD206 increased after HRS treatment. 8-OHdG expression was decreased in the HRS-treated rats. Western blot analysis showed decreased NLRP3, ASC, caspase-1, MMP-2/9, TLR4 and Bax protein levels after HRS treatment, while Bcl-2 expression increased after HRS treatment. These data demonstrated that HRS attenuated neuroinflammation, NLRP3 inflammasome activation, neuronal injury, and mitochondrial damage via NLRP3/Caspase-1/TLR4 signalling in the juvenile rat model, making it a potential therapeutic agent in the treatment of paediatric SAE.