Recent evidence shows that the NMDAR postsynaptic density-95 (PSD-95), growth-associated protein-43 (GAP-43), and matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) protein enhance neuroplasticity at the subacute stage of stroke. Here, we evaluated whether melatonin would modulate the PSD-95, GAP-43, and MMP-9 proteins in cultured neurons exposed to glutamate excitotoxicity and in rats subjected to experimental stroke. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were treated with melatonin (5 mg/kg) or vehicle at reperfusion onset after transient occlusion of the right middle cerebral artery (tMCAO) for 90 min. Animals were euthanized for Western immunoblot analyses for the PSD-95 and GAP-43 proteins and gelatin zymography for the MMP-9 activity at 7 days postinsult. Another set of animals was sacrificed for histologic and Golgi-Cox-impregnated sections at 28 days postinsult. In cultured neurons exposed to glutamate excitotoxicity, melatonin significantly upregulated the GAP-43 and PSD-95 expressions and improved dendritic aborizations (P < 0.05, respectively). Relative to controls, melatonin-treated stroke animals caused a significant improvement in GAP-43 and PSD-95 expressions as well as the MMP-9 activity in the ischemic brain (P < 0.05). Consequently, melatonin also significantly promoted the dendritic spine density and reduced infarction in the ischemic brain, and improved neurobehaviors as well at 28 days postinsult (P < 0.05, respectively). Together, melatonin upregulates GAP-43, PSD-95, and MMP-9 proteins, which likely accounts for its actions to improve neuroplasticity in cultured neurons exposed to glutamate excitotoxicity and to enhance long-term neuroprotection, neuroplasticity, and brain remodeling in stroke rats.
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