D-cycloserine improves functional outcome after traumatic brain injury with wide therapeutic window

Eur J Pharmacol. 2010 Mar 10;629(1-3):25-30. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2009.11.066. Epub 2009 Dec 1.


It has been long thought that hyperactivation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors underlies neurological decline after traumatic brain injury. However, all clinical trials with NMDA receptor antagonists failed. Since NMDA receptors are down-regulated from 4h to 2weeks after brain injury, activation at 24h, rather than inhibition, of these receptors, was previously shown to be beneficial in mice. Here, we tested the therapeutic window, dose regimen and mechanism of action of the NMDA receptor partial agonist D-cycloserine (DCS) in traumatic brain injury. Male mice were subjected to trauma using a weight-drop model, and administered 10mg/kg (i.p.) DCS or vehicle once (8, 16, 24, or 72h) twice (24 and 48h) or three times (24, 48 and 72h). Functional recovery was assessed for up to 60days, using a Neurological Severity Score that measures neurobehavioral parameters. In all groups in which treatment was begun at 24 or 72h neurobehavioral function was significantly better than in the vehicle-treated groups. Additional doses, on days 2 and 3 did not further improve recovery. Mice treated at 8h or 16h post injury did not differ from the vehicle-treated controls. Co-administration of the NMDA receptor antagonist MK-801 completely blocked the protective effect of DCS given at 24h. Infarct volume measured by 2,3,5-triphenyltetrazolium chloride staining at 48h or by cresyl violet at 28days was not affected by DCS treatment. Since DCS is used clinically for other indications, the present study offers a novel approach for treating human traumatic brain injury with a therapeutic window of at least 24h.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Injuries / drug therapy*
  • Brain Injuries / metabolism
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Cycloserine / administration & dosage*
  • Cycloserine / metabolism
  • Cycloserine / pharmacology
  • Cycloserine / therapeutic use*
  • Dizocilpine Maleate / pharmacology
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / agonists
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism
  • Recovery of Function / drug effects*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Dizocilpine Maleate
  • Cycloserine