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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Sep 25;98(20):11569-74. Epub 2001 Aug 14.

Intravenous administration of MEK inhibitor U0126 affords brain protection against forebrain ischemia and focal cerebral ischemia.

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Stroke and Brain Protection, Research Institute, and Department of Neurosurgery, National Cardiovascular Center, 5-7-1 Fujishirodai, Suita, Osaka 565-8565, Japan.


Brain subjected to acute ischemic attack caused by an arterial blockage needs immediate arterial recanalization. However, restoration of cerebral blood flow can cause tissue injury, which is termed reperfusion injury. It is important to inhibit reperfusion injury to achieve greater brain protection. Because oxidative stress has been shown to activate mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), and because oxidative stress contributes to reperfusion injury, MAPK may be a potential target to inhibit reperfusion injury after brain ischemia. Here, we demonstrate that reperfusion after forebrain ischemia dramatically increases phosphorylation level of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 2 (ERK2) in the gerbil hippocampus. In addition, i.v. administration of U0126 (100-200 mg/kg), a specific inhibitor of MEK (MAPK/ERK kinase), protects the hippocampus against forebrain ischemia. Moreover, treatment with U0126 at 3 h after ischemia significantly reduces infarct volume after transient (3 h) focal cerebral ischemia in mice. This protection is accompanied by reduced phosphorylation level of ERK2, substrates for MEK, in the damaged brain areas. Furthermore, U0126 protects mouse primary cultured cortical neurons against oxygen deprivation for 9 h as well as nitric oxide toxicity. These results provide further evidence for the role of MEK/ERK activation in brain injury resulting from ischemia/reperfusion, and indicate that MEK inhibition may increase the resistance of tissue to ischemic injury.

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