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Mol Med. 2015 May 19;21:420-9. doi: 10.2119/molmed.2015.00038.

Methylene Blue Reduces Acute Cerebral Ischemic Injury via the Induction of Mitophagy.

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Department of Cognitive Science, Beijing Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Beijing, People's Republic of China.
Co-innovation Center of Neuroregeneration, Nantong University, Nantong, People's Republic of China.
Beijing Institute for Brain Disorders, Beijing, People's Republic of China.


The treatment of stroke is limited by a short therapeutic window and a lack of effective clinical drugs. Methylene blue (MB) has been used in laboratories and clinics since the 1890s. Few studies have reported the neuroprotective role of MB in cerebral ischemia-reperfusion injury. However, whether and how MB protects against acute cerebral ischemia (ACI) injury was unclear. In this study, we investigated the effect of MB on this injury and revealed that MB protected against ACI injury by augmenting mitophagy. Using a rat middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) model, we demonstrated that MB improved neurological function and reduced the infarct volume and necrosis after ACI injury. These improvements depended on the effect of MB on mitochondrial structure and function. ACI caused the disorder and disintegration of mitochondrial structure, while MB ameliorated the destruction of mitochondria. In addition, mitophagy was inhibited at 24 h after stroke and MB augmented mitophagy. In an oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD) model in vitro, we further revealed that the elevation of mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) by MB under OGD conditions mediated the augmented mitophagy. In contrast, exacerbating the decline of MMP during OGD abolished the MB-induced activation of mitophagy. Taken together, MB promotes mitophagy by maintaining the MMP at a relatively high level, which contributes to a decrease in necrosis and an improvement in neurological function, thereby protecting against ACI injury.

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