Background: After neonatal asphyxia, therapeutic hypothermia (HT) is the only proven treatment option. Although established as a neuroprotective therapy, benefit from HT has been questioned when infection is a comorbidity to hypoxic-ischaemic (HI) brain injury. Gram-negative and gram-positive species activate the immune system through different pathogen recognition receptors and subsequent immunological systems. In rodent models, gram-negative (lipopolysaccharide [LPS]) and gram-positive (PAM3CSK4 [PAM]) inflammation similarly increase neuronal vulnerability to HI. Interestingly, while LPS pre-sensitisation negates the neuroprotective effect of HT, HT is highly beneficial after PAM-sensitised HI brain injury. Objective: We aimed to examine whether systemic gram-positive or gram-negative inflammatory sensitisation affects juvenile rat pups per se, without an HI insult. Methods: Neonatal 7-day-old rats (n = 215) received intraperitoneal injections of vehicle (0.9% NaCl), LPS (0.1 mg/kg), or PAM (1 mg/kg). Core temperature and weight gain were monitored. Brain cytokine expression (IL-6, IL-1β, TNF-α, and IL-10, via PCR), apoptosis (cleaved caspase 3, via Western blots), and microglial activation (Iba1, via immunohistochemistry) were examined. Results: LPS induced an immediate drop in core temperature followed by poor weight gain, none of which were seen after PAM. Furthermore, LPS induced brain apoptosis, while PAM did not. The magnitude and temporal profile of brain cytokine expression differed between LPS- and PAM-injected animals. Conclusion: These findings reveal sepsis-like conditions and neuroinflammation specific to the inflammatory stimulus (gram-positive vs. gram-negative) in the neonatal rat. They emphasise the importance of pre-clinical models being pathogen dependent, and should always be carefully tailored to their clinical scenario.

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