Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Riverside

UC Riverside Previously Published Works bannerUC Riverside

Neuregulin-1 attenuates experimental cerebral malaria (ECM) pathogenesis by regulating ErbB4/AKT/STAT3 signaling.



Human cerebral malaria (HCM) is a severe form of malaria characterized by sequestration of infected erythrocytes (IRBCs) in brain microvessels, increased levels of circulating free heme and pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, brain swelling, vascular dysfunction, coma, and increased mortality. Neuregulin-1β (NRG-1) encoded by the gene NRG1, is a member of a family of polypeptide growth factors required for normal development of the nervous system and the heart. Utilizing an experimental cerebral malaria (ECM) model (Plasmodium berghei ANKA in C57BL/6), we reported that NRG-1 played a cytoprotective role in ECM and that circulating levels were inversely correlated with ECM severity. Intravenous infusion of NRG-1 reduced ECM mortality in mice by promoting a robust anti-inflammatory response coupled with reduction in accumulation of IRBCs in microvessels and reduced tissue damage.


In the current study, we examined how NRG-1 treatment attenuates pathogenesis and mortality associated with ECM. We examined whether NRG-1 protects against CXCL10- and heme-induced apoptosis using human brain microvascular endothelial (hCMEC/D3) cells and M059K neuroglial cells. hCMEC/D3 cells grown in a monolayer and a co-culture system with 30 μM heme and NRG-1 (100 ng/ml) were used to examine the role of NRG-1 on blood brain barrier (BBB) integrity. Using the in vivo ECM model, we examined whether the reduction of mortality was associated with the activation of ErbB4 and AKT and inactivation of STAT3 signaling pathways. For data analysis, unpaired t test or one-way ANOVA with Dunnett's or Bonferroni's post test was applied.


We determined that NRG-1 protects against cell death/apoptosis of human brain microvascular endothelial cells and neroglial cells, the two major components of BBB. NRG-1 treatment improved heme-induced disruption of the in vitro BBB model consisting of hCMEC/D3 and human M059K cells. In the ECM murine model, NRG-1 treatment stimulated ErbB4 phosphorylation (pErbB4) followed by activation of AKT and inactivation of STAT3, which attenuated ECM mortality.


Our results indicate a potential pathway by which NRG-1 treatment maintains BBB integrity in vitro, attenuates ECM-induced tissue injury, and reduces mortality. Furthermore, we postulate that augmenting NRG-1 during ECM therapy may be an effective adjunctive therapy to reduce CNS tissue injury and potentially increase the effectiveness of current anti-malaria therapy against human cerebral malaria (HCM).

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View