Carnosine (beta-alanyl-L-histidine) has been shown to exhibit neuroprotection in rodent models of cerebral ischemia. In the present study, we further characterized the effects of carnosine treatment in a mouse model of permanent focal cerebral ischemia and compared them with its related peptides anserine and N-acetylated carnosine. We also evaluated the efficacy of bestatin, a carnosinase inhibitor, in ameliorating ischemic brain damage. Permanent focal cerebral ischemia was induced by occlusion of the middle cerebral artery (pMCAO). Mice were subsequently randomly assigned to receive an intraperitoneal injection of vehicle (0.9% saline), carnosine, N-acetyl carnosine, anserine, bestatin alone, or bestatin with carnosine. Infarct size was examined using 2,3,5-triphenyltetrazolium chloride staining 1, 3, and 7 days following pMCAO, and neurological function was evaluated using an 18-point-based scale. Brain levels of carnosine were measured in treated mice using high-performance liquid chromatography 1 day following pMCAO. We demonstrated that treatment with carnosine, but not its analogues, was able to significantly reduce infarct volume and improve neurological function compared with those in vehicle-treated mice. These beneficial effects were maintained for 7 days post-pMCAO. In contrast, compared with the vehicle-treated group, bestatin-treated mice displayed an increase in the severity of ischemic lesion, which was prevented by the addition of carnosine. These new data further characterize the neuroprotective effects of carnosine and suggest that carnosine may be an attractive candidate for testing as a stroke therapy.
(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.