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Cell Biol Toxicol. 2008 Jan;24(1):75-86. Epub 2007 Jun 5.

The flavonoid rutin induces astrocyte and microglia activation and regulates TNF-alpha and NO release in primary glial cell cultures.

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  • 1Departamento de Biofunção, Laboratório de Neuroquímica e Biologia Celular, Instituto de Ciências da Saúde, Universidade Federal da Bahia, Salvador, Brazil.


Astrocyte and microglia cells play an important role in the central nervous system (CNS). They react to various external aggressions by becoming reactive and releasing neurotrophic and/or neurotoxic factors. Rutin is a flavonoid found in many plants and has been shown to have some biological activities, but its direct effects on cells of the CNS have not been well studied. To investigate its potential effects on CNS glial cells, we used both astrocyte primary cultures and astrocyte/microglia mixed primary cell cultures derived from newborn rat cortical brain. The cultures were treated for 24 h with rutin (50 or 100 micromol/L) or vehicle (0.5% dimethyl sulfoxide). Mitochondrial function on glial cells was not evidenced by the MTT test. However, an increased lactate dehydrogenase activity was detected in the culture medium of both culture systems when treated with 100 micromol/L rutin, suggesting loss of cell membrane integrity. Astrocytes exposed to 50 micromol/L rutin became reactive as revealed by glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) overexpression and showed a star-like phenotype revealed by Rosenfeld's staining. The number of activated microglia expressing OX-42 increased in the presence of rutin. A significant increase of nitric oxide (NO) was observed only in mixed cultures exposed to 100 micromol/L rutin. Enhanced TNFalpha release was observed in astrocyte primary cultures treated with 100 micromol/L rutin and in mixed primary cultures treated with 50 and 100 micromol/L, suggesting different sensitivity of both activated cell types. These results demonstrated that rutin affects astrocytes and microglial cells in culture and has the capacity to induce NO and TNFalpha production in these cells. Hence, the impact of these effects on neurons in vitro and in vivo needs to be studied.

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