Behavioral, Physiological and Biochemical Hormetic Responses to the Autoxidizable Dye Methylene Blue

Am J Pharmacol Toxicol. 2008 Jan 1;3(1):72-79. doi: 10.3844/ajptsp.2008.72.79.


The goals of this review were to identify methylene blue (MB) as a compound that follows hormetic behavior for a wide range of effects and to address the question of what is unique about MB that could account for its wide applicability and hormetic behavior as a drug. The MB hormetic dose-response relationship is exemplified by an increase in various behavioral, physiological and biochemical responses with increasing dose, followed by a decrease in the same responses with an even higher dose, until the responses are equal to control responses. With MB doses increasing beyond the hormetic zone, the responses decrease even further, until they are below the control responses. At doses spanning its hormetic zone, MB can increase select responses until they are 130-160% of control. For example, low doses of MB produce maximum behavioral and biochemical responses with averages of approximately 140% of control. As MB dose is raised outside the hormetic zone the response decreases below the control response, as exemplified by MB's ability to increase cytochrome oxidase activity at intermediate doses, while decreasing cytochrome oxidase activity at higher doses. It is proposed that MB's autoxidizable chemical property may be responsible for its unique biological action as both a metabolic energy enhancer and antioxidant that is frequently characterized by hormetic dose-response relationships.