Hydroquinone (HQ), a major benzene metabolite, occurs naturally in various plants and is manufactured for commercial use. Although HQ displays various biological effects, its neuroprotective effects following ischemic insults have not been investigated. In this study, we first examined neuroprotective effects of HQ in a rat model of transient focal cerebral ischemia. Animals were subjected to transient middle cerebral artery occlusion for 120 min. HQ (50 or 100 mg/kg) or vehicle was intraperitoneally administered once at 30min after ischemia-reperfusion. Neuroprotection by treatment with 100 mg/kg of HQ was shown using evaluation of neurological deficits, positron-emission tomography (PET) and 2,3,5-triphenyltetrazoliumchloride (TTC) staining. In addition, HQ treatment significantly attenuated ischemia-induced Evans blue dye extravasation from blood vessels and significantly increased immunoreactivities of SMI-71 (an endothelial BBB marker) and glucose transporter-1 (GLUT-1, an endothelial cell marker) in ischemic cortex compared to the vehicle-treated ischemia-operated group. Confocal microscopy and western blot analysis also showed that HQ treatment maintained expressions of tight junction proteins (zonula occludens-1 and occludin) in the ischemic cortex. Post-treatment with HQ protected neurons from transient focal cerebral ischemic injury and the neuroprotective effect of HQ might be closely associated with prevention of BBB disruption via maintaining SMI-71 and GLUT-1 expressions as well as prevention of the degradation of zonula occludens-1 and occludin proteins.
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