- Academic Editor
†These authors contributed equally.
Background: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a common brain injury with a high morbidity and mortality. The complex injury cascade triggered by TBI can result in permanent neurological dysfunction such as cognitive impairment. In order to provide new insights for elucidating the underlying molecular mechanisms of TBI, this study systematically analyzed the transcriptome data of the rat hippocampus in the subacute phase of TBI. Methods: Two datasets (GSE111452 and GSE173975) were downloaded from the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) database. Systematic bioinformatics analyses were performed, including differentially expressed genes (DEGs) analysis, gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA), Gene Ontology (GO) enrichment analysis, and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathway analysis, protein-protein interaction (PPI) network construction, and hub gene identification. In addition, hematoxylin and eosin (HE), Nissl, and immunohistochemical staining were performed to assess the injured hippocampus in a TBI rat model. The hub genes identified by bioinformatics analyses were verified at the mRNA expression level. Results: A total of 56 DEGs were shared in the two datasets. GSEA results suggested significant enrichment in the MAPK and PI3K/Akt pathways, focal adhesion, and cellular senescence. GO and KEGG analyses showed that the common DEGs were predominantly related to immune and inflammatory processes, including antigen processing and presentation, leukocyte-mediated immunity, adaptive immune response, lymphocyte-mediated immunity, phagosome, lysosome, and complement and coagulation cascades. A PPI network of the common DEGs was constructed, and 15 hub genes were identified. In the shared DEGs, we identified two transcription co-factors and 15 immune-related genes. The results of GO analysis indicated that these immune-related DEGs were mainly enriched in biological processes associated with the activation of multiple cells such as microglia, astrocytes, and macrophages. HE and Nissl staining results demonstrated overt hippocampal neuronal damage. Immunohistochemical staining revealed a marked increase in the number of Iba1-positive cells in the injured hippocampus. The mRNA expression levels of the hub genes were consistent with the transcriptome data. Conclusions: This study highlighted the potential pathological processes in TBI-related hippocampal impairment. The crucial genes identified in this study may serve as novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets, accelerating the pace of developing effective treatments for TBI-related hippocampal impairment.