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Neurotoxicology. 2002 May;23(1):19-31.

Piracetam and vinpocetine exert cytoprotective activity and prevent apoptosis of astrocytes in vitro in hypoxia and reoxygenation.

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Department of Pharmacology, Silesian Medical University, Katowice, Poland.


The aim of the present study was to establish whether piracetam (2-pyrrolidon-N-acetamide; PIR) and vinpocetine (a vasoactive vinca alkaloid; VINP) are capable of protecting astrocytes against hypoxic injury. Using the model of astrocyte cell culture we observed the cells treated with PIR and VINP during and after in vitro simulated hypoxia. Cell viability was determined by Live/Dead Viability/Cytotoxicity Assay Kit, LDH release assay and MTT conversion test. Apoptotic cell death was distinguished by a method of Hoechst 33342 staining underfluorescence microscope and caspase-3 colorimetric assay. In addition the intracellular levels of ATP and phosphocreatine (PCr) were evaluated by bioluminescence method. Moreover, the effect of the drugs on the DNA synthesis was evaluated by measuring the incorporation of [3H]thymidine into DNA of astrocytes. PIR (0.01 and 1 mM) and VINP (0.1 and 10 microM) were added to the medium both during 24 h normoxia, 24 h hypoxia or 24 h reoxygenation. Administration of 1 mM PIR or 0.1 microM VINP to the cultures during hypoxia significantly decreases the number of dead and apoptotic cells. The antiapoptic effects of drugs in the above mentioned concentrations was also confirmed by their stimulation of mitochondrial function, the increase of intracellular ATP, and the inhibition of the caspase-3 activity. The prevention of apoptosis was accompanied by the increase in ATP and PCr levels and increase in the proliferation of astrocytes exposed to reoxygenation. The higher concentration of VINP (10 microM) was detrimental in hypoxic conditions. Our experiment proved the significant cytoprotective effect of 1 mM PIR and 0.1 microM VINP on astrocytes in vitro.

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