Methylene blue-induced neuronal protective mechanism against hypoxia-reoxygenation stress

M. G. Ryou, G. R. Choudhury, W. Li, A. Winters, F. Yuan, R. Liu, S. H. Yang

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48 Scopus citations


Brain ischemia and reperfusion (I/R) injury occurs in various pathological conditions, but there is no effective treatment currently available in clinical practice. Methylene blue (MB) is a century-old drug with a newly discovered protective function in the ischemic stroke model. In the current investigation we studied the MB-induced neuroprotective mechanism focusing on stabilization and activation of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) in an in vitro oxygen and glucose deprivation (OGD)-reoxygenation model. Methods: HT22 cells were exposed to OGD (0.1% O2, 6h) and reoxygenation (21% O2, 24h). Cell viability was determined with the calcein AM assay. The dynamic change of intracellular O2 concentration was monitored by fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLTIM). Glucose uptake was quantified using the 2-[N-(7-Nitrobenz-2-Oxa-1,3-Diazol-4-yl)Amino]-2-Deoxy-d-Glucose (2-NBDG) assay. ATP concentration and glycolytic enzyme activity were examined by spectrophotometry. Protein content changes were measured by immunoblot: HIF-1α, prolyl hydroxylase 2 (PHD2), erythropoietin (EPO), Akt, mTOR, and PIP5K. The contribution of HIF-1α activation in the MB-induced neuroprotective mechanism was confirmed by blocking HIF-1α activation with 2-methoxyestradiol-2 (2-MeOE2) and by transiently transfecting constitutively active HIF-1α. Results: MB increases cell viability by about 50% vs. OGD control. Compared to the corresponding control, MB increases intracellular O2 concentration and glucose uptake as well as the activities of hexokinase and G-6-PDH, and ATP concentration. MB activates the EPO signaling pathway with a corresponding increase in HIF-1α. Phosphorylation of Akt was significantly increased with MB treatment followed by activation of the mTOR pathway. Importantly, we observed, MB increased nuclear translocation of HIF-1α vs. control (about three folds), which was shown by a ratio of nuclear:cytoplasmic HIF-1α protein content. Conclusion: We conclude that MB protects the hippocampus-derived neuronal cells against OGD-reoxygenation injury by enhancing energy metabolism and increasing HIF-1α protein content accompanied by an activation of the EPO signaling pathway.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-203
Number of pages11
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2015


  • Hypoxia-inducible factor
  • Ischemia and reperfusion injury
  • Methylene blue
  • Neuroprotection
  • Oxygen and glucose deprivation


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