Molecular targets in cerebral ischemia for developing novel therapeutics

Brain Res Rev. 2007 Apr;54(1):34-66. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresrev.2006.11.003. Epub 2007 Jan 12.


Cerebral ischemia (stroke) triggers a complex series of biochemical and molecular mechanisms that impairs the neurologic functions through breakdown of cellular integrity mediated by excitotoxic glutamatergic signalling, ionic imbalance, free-radical reactions, etc. These intricate processes lead to activation of signalling mechanisms involving calcium/calmodulin-dependent kinases (CaMKs) and mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) such as extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), p38, and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK). The distribution of these transducers bring them in contact with appropriate molecular targets leading to altered gene expression, e.g. ERK and JNK mediated early gene induction, responsible for activation of cell survival/damaging mechanisms. Moreover, inflammatory reactions initiated at the neurovascular interface and alterations in the dynamic communication between the endothelial cells, astrocytes and neurons are thought to substantially contribute to the pathogenesis of the disease. The damaging mechanisms may proceed through rapid nonspecific cell lysis (necrosis) or by active form of cell demise (apoptosis or necroptosis), depending upon the severity and duration of the ischemic insult. A systematic understanding of these molecular mechanisms with prospect of modulating the chain of events leading to cellular survival/damage may help to generate the potential strategies for neuroprotection. This review briefly covers the current status on the molecular mechanisms of stroke pathophysiology with an endeavour to identify potential molecular targets such as targeting postsynaptic density-95 (PSD-95)/N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor interaction, certain key proteins involved in oxidative stress, CaMKs and MAPKs (ERK, p38 and JNK) signalling, inflammation (cytokines, adhesion molecules, etc.) and cell death pathways (caspases, Bcl-2 family proteins, poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 (PARP-1), apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF), inhibitors of apoptosis proteins (IAPs), heat shock protein 70 (HSP70), receptor interacting protein (RIP), etc., besides targeting directly the genes itself. However, selecting promising targets from various signalling cascades, for drug discovery and development is very challenging, nevertheless such novel approaches may lead to the emergence of new avenues for therapeutic intervention in cerebral ischemia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Ischemia / drug therapy
  • Brain Ischemia / metabolism*
  • Brain Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Calcium Signaling / drug effects
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cell Death / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Nerve Degeneration / drug therapy
  • Nerve Degeneration / metabolism*
  • Nerve Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Glutamic Acid