We have previously shown that melatonin reduces postischemic rises in the blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability and improves neurovascular dysfunction and hemorrhagic transformation following ischemic stroke. It is known that activation of the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of brain edema and hemorrhagic transformation after ischemic stroke. We, herein, investigated whether melatonin would ameliorate MMP-2 and MMP-9 activation and expression in a rat model of transient focal cerebral ischemia. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to a 90-min middle cerebral artery (MCA) occlusion using an intraluminal filament. Melatonin (5 mg/kg) or vehicle was intravenously injected upon reperfusion. Brain infarction and hemorrhage within infarcts were measured, and neurological deficits were scored. The activity and expression of MMP-2 and MMP-9 were determined by zymography, in situ zymography and Western immunoblot analysis. Cerebral ischemia-reperfusion induced increased pro-MMP-9 and MMP-9 activity and expression 24 hr after reperfusion onset. Relative to controls, melatonin-treated animals, however, had significantly reduced levels in the MMP-9 activity and expression (P < 0.01), in addition to reduced brain infarct volume and hemorrhagic transformation as well as improved sensorimotor neurobehavioral outcomes. No significant change in MMP-2 activity was observed throughout the course experiments. Our results indicate that the melatonin-mediated reductions in ischemic brain damage and reperfusion-induced hemorrhage are partly attributed to its ability to reduce postischemic MMP-9 activation and increased expression, and further support the fact that melatonin is a suitable as an add-on to thrombolytic therapy for ischemic stroke patients.
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