Melatonin demonstrates neuroprotective properties in adult models of cerebral ischemia, acting as a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. We investigated the effect of melatonin in a 7-d-old rat model of ischemia-reperfusion, leading to both cortical infarct and injury in the underlying white matter observed using MRI and immunohistochemistry. Melatonin was given i.p. as either a single dose before ischemia or a double-dose regimen, combining one before ischemia and one 24 h after reperfusion. At 48 h after injury, neither a significant reduction in cortical infarct volume nor a variation in the number of TUNEL- and nitrotyrosine-positive cells within the ipsilateral lesion was observed in melatonin-treated animals compared with controls. However, a decrease in the density of tomato lectin-positive cells after melatonin treatment was found in the white matter underlying cortical lesion. Furthermore, we showed a marked increase in the myelin basic protein-immunoreactivity in the cingulum and in the density of mature oligodendrocytes (APC-immunoreactive) in both the ipsilateral cingulum and external capsule. These results suggest that melatonin is not able to reduce cortical infarct volume in a neonatal stroke model but strongly reduces inflammation and promotes subsequent myelination in the white matter.
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