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Neurosurgery. 2001 Jun;48(6):1393-9; discussion 1399-401.

Minocycline reduces traumatic brain injury-mediated caspase-1 activation, tissue damage, and neurological dysfunction.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



Caspase-1 plays an important functional role mediating neuronal cell death and dysfunction after experimental traumatic brain injury (TBI) in mice. Minocycline, a derivative of the antibiotic tetracycline, inhibits caspase-1 expression. This study investigates whether minocycline can ameliorate TBI-mediated injury in mice.


Brains from mice subjected to traumatic brain injury underwent immunohistochemical analyses for caspase-1, caspase-3, and a neuronal specific marker (NeuN). Minocycline- and saline-treated mice subjected to traumatic brain injury were compared with respect to neurological function, lesion volume, and interleukin-1beta production.


Immunohistochemical analysis revealed that activated caspase-1 and caspase-3 are present in neurons 24 hours after TBI. Intraperitoneal administration of minocycline 12 hours before or 30 minutes after TBI in mice resulted in improved neurological function when compared with mice given saline control, as assessed by Rotarod performance 1 to 4 days after TBI. The lesion volume, assessed 4 days after trauma, was significantly decreased in mice treated with minocycline before or after trauma when compared with saline-treated mice. Caspase-1 activity, quantified by measuring mature interleukin-1beta production by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, was considerably increased in mice that underwent TBI, and this increase was significantly diminished in minocycline-treated mice.


We show for the first time that caspase-1 and caspase-3 activities localize specifically within neurons after experimental brain trauma. Further, these results indicate that minocycline is an effective pharmacological agent for reducing tissue injury and neurological deficits that result from experimental TBI, likely through a caspase-1-dependent mechanism. These results provide an experimental rationale for the evaluation of minocycline in human trauma patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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