Perinatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in neonates, with survivors suffering significant neurological sequelae including cerebral palsy, epilepsy, intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorders. While hypothermia is used clinically to reduce neurological injury following HIE, it is only used for term infants (>36 weeks gestation) in tertiary hospitals and improves outcomes in only 30% of patients. For these reasons, a more effective and easily administrable pharmacological therapeutic agent, that can be used in combination with hypothermia or alone when hypothermia cannot be applied, is urgently needed to treat pre-term (_36 weeks gestation) and term infants suffering HIE. Several recent studies have demonstrated that cationic arginine-rich peptides (CARPs), which include many cell-penetrating peptides [CPPs; e.g., transactivator of transcription (TAT) and poly-arginine-9 (R9; 9-mer of arginine)], possess intrinsic neuroprotective properties. For example, we have demonstrated that poly-arginine-18 (R18; 18-mer of arginine) and its D-enantiomer (R18D) are neuroprotective in vitro following neuronal excitotoxicity, and in vivo following perinatal hypoxia-ischemia (HI). In this paper, we review studies that have used CARPs and other peptides, including putative neuroprotective peptides fused to TAT, in animal models of perinatal HIE. We critically evaluate the evidence that supports our hypothesis that CARP neuroprotection is mediated by peptide arginine content and positive charge and that CARPs represent a novel potential therapeutic for HIE.


hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, hypoxia-ischemia, birth asphyxia, neuroprotection, cationic arginine-rich peptides, animal models

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