Background: Altered neuronal connectivity in peri-infarct tissue is an important contributor to both the spontaneous recovery of neurological function that commonly develops after stroke and improvements in recovery that have been induced by experimental treatments in animal models. Microglia and astrocytes are primary determinants of the environment in peri-infarct tissue and hence strongly influence the potential for neuronal plasticity. However, the specific roles of these cells and the timing of critical changes in their function are not well understood. Minocycline can protect against ischemic damage and promote recovery. These effects are usually attributed, at least partially, to the ability of this drug to suppress microglial activation. This study tested the ability of minocycline treatment early after stroke to modify reactive responses in microglia and astrocytes and improve recovery. Methods: Stroke was induced by photothrombosis in the forelimb sensorimotor cortex of Sprague-Dawley rats. Minocycline was administered for 2 days after stroke induction and the effects on forelimb function assessed up to 28 days. The responses of peri-infarct Iba1-positive cells and astrocytes were evaluated using immunohistochemistry and Western blots. Results: Initial characterization showed that the numbers of Iba1-positive microglia and macrophages decreased in peri-infarct tissue at 24 h then increased markedly over the next few days. Morphological changes characteristic of activation were readily apparent by 3 h and increased by 24 h. Minocycline treatment improved the rate of recovery of motor function as measured by a forelimb placing test but did not alter infarct volume. At 3 days, there were only minor effects on core features of peri-infarct microglial reactivity including the morphological changes and increased density of Iba1-positive cells. The treatment caused a decrease of 57% in the small subpopulation of cells that expressed CD68, a marker of phagocytosis. At 7 days, the expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein and vimentin was markedly increased by minocycline treatment, indicating enhanced reactive astrogliosis. Conclusions: Early post-stroke treatment with minocycline improved recovery but had little effect on key features of microglial activation. Both the decrease in CD68-positive cells and the increased activation of astrogliosis could influence neuronal plasticity and contribute to the improved recovery.
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- Focal ischemia
- Functional recovery