Theranostics 2020; 10(6):2832-2848. doi:10.7150/thno.37119

Research Paper

Upregulation of neuronal PGC-1α ameliorates cognitive impairment induced by chronic cerebral hypoperfusion

Bin Han1,2,3#, Wei Jiang2#, Haijie Liu1,4#, Junjie Wang2, Kai Zheng2, Pan Cui2, Yan Feng2, Chun Dang2, Yali Bu2, Qing Mei Wang4, Zhenyu Ju5✉, Junwei Hao1,2✉

1. Department of Neurology, Xuanwu Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, 100053, China
2. Department of Neurology, Tianjin Medical University General Hospital, Tianjin, 300052, China
3. Department of Neurology, The Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University, Qingdao, 266000, China
4. Stroke Biological Recovery Laboratory, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, the teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA, 02129, USA
5. Key Laboratory of Regenerative Medicine of Ministry of Education, Institute of Aging and Regenerative Medicine, Jinan University, Guangzhou, 510632, China
# These authors contributed equally to this study.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Han B, Jiang W, Liu H, Wang J, Zheng K, Cui P, Feng Y, Dang C, Bu Y, Wang QM, Ju Z, Hao J. Upregulation of neuronal PGC-1α ameliorates cognitive impairment induced by chronic cerebral hypoperfusion. Theranostics 2020; 10(6):2832-2848. doi:10.7150/thno.37119. Available from

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Rationale: Mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress occur in vascular dementia (VaD), but the specific molecular mechanism regulating these events remains unclear. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ co-activator-1α (PGC-1α) is a master regulator for mitochondrial function. This study aims to investigate whether PGC-1α is involved in the pathophysiology of VaD.

Methods: We firstly generated PGC-1αf/f Eno2-Cre mice to induce neuron-specific overexpression of PGC-1α by crossbreeding PGC-1αf/f mice with Eno2-cre mice. Then, the mice were subjected to bilateral common carotid artery stenosis to induce chronic cerebral hypoperfusion. Neurological function and hippocampal PGC-1α expression was evaluated. Next, RNA-Seq analysis and Seahorse assay were performed on the hippocampal neurons. In addition, mitochondrial antioxidants, uncoupling proteins, ROS production and the activation of glial cells were also measured.

Results: Our results showed that hippocampal PGC-1α expression is down-regulated in the mouse VaD model induced by chronic cerebral hypoperfusion. In contrast, neuronal PGC-1α overexpression significantly ameliorated cognitive deficits. RNA-Seq analysis indicated that PGC-1α improved energy metabolism of neurons under hypoxic condition, and Seahorse assay confirmed that PGC-1α increases the metabolic activity of neurons. Further study demonstrated that PGC-1α boosted the expressions of mitochondrial antioxidants and uncoupling proteins (UCPs), including SOD2, Prx3, GPx1, UCP2, UCP4 and UCP5, which in turn reduced reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. Moreover, the activation of microglia and astrocytes was also found to decrease in the hippocampus. All of these changes greatly contributed to protect hippocampal neurons against ischemic insults.

Conclusions: PGC-1α could suppress the excessive ROS and neuroinflammation in the hippocampus, opening up a potential therapeutic target for cognitive impairment.

Keywords: neuroinflammation, PGC-1α, ROS, vascular dementia