Rapamycin is a neuroprotective treatment for traumatic brain injury

Neurobiol Dis. 2007 Apr;26(1):86-93. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2006.12.003. Epub 2007 Jan 31.


The mammalian target of rapamycin, commonly known as mTOR, is a serine/threonine kinase that regulates translation and cell division. mTOR integrates input from multiple upstream signals, including growth factors and nutrients to regulate protein synthesis. Inhibition of mTOR leads to cell cycle arrest, inhibition of cell proliferation, immunosuppression and induction of autophagy. Autophagy, a bulk degradation of sub-cellular constituents, is a process that keeps the balance between protein synthesis and protein degradation and is induced upon amino acids deprivation. Rapamycin, mTOR signaling inhibitor, mimics amino acid and, to some extent, growth factor deprivation. In the present study we examined the effect of rapamycin, on the outcome of mice after brain injury. Our results demonstrate that rapamycin injection 4 h following closed head injury significantly improved functional recovery as manifested by changes in the Neurological Severity Score, a neurobehavioral testing. To verify the activity of the injected rapamycin, we demonstrated that it inhibits p70S6K phosphorylation, reduces microglia/macrophages activation and increases the number of surviving neurons at the site of injury. We therefore suggest that rapamycin is neuroprotective following traumatic brain injury and as a drug used in the clinic for other indications, we propose that further studies on rapamycin should be conducted in order to consider it as a novel therapy for traumatic brain injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy / drug effects
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain Chemistry / drug effects
  • Brain Injuries / drug therapy*
  • Brain Injuries / pathology
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Functional Laterality / drug effects
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neuroprotective Agents*
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Ribosomal Protein S6 Kinases, 70-kDa / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Sirolimus / pharmacology
  • Sirolimus / therapeutic use*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases


  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Protein Kinases
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • mTOR protein, mouse
  • Ribosomal Protein S6 Kinases, 70-kDa
  • Sirolimus