Cerebral white matter (WM) lesions contribute to cognitive impairment and motor dysfunction in the elderly. Intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) are two important adhesion molecules that are upregulated during endothelial activation. Data from recent studies have suggested that ICAM-1 levels are related to progression of white matter hyperintensities (WMH) on MRI. In the present study, we hypothesized that ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 are involved in the endothelial dysfunction and the subsequent WM lesions after chronic cerebral hypoperfusion. Rats underwent bilateral common carotid artery ligation. They were divided into the lipoic acid group and the saline (vehicle) group. RT-PCR and double immunofluorescence for ICAM-1, VCAM-1, endothelial cells (staining positive for von Willebrand factor, vWF), reactive astrocytes (GFAP staining) and activated microglia/macrophages/(CD11b/c staining) were analyzed at baseline and at 1, 3, 7, 14 and 28 days after hypoperfusion. The severity of the WM lesions in the corpus callosum, internal capsule, and external capsule of both hemispheres was graded by luxol fast blue staining. RT-PCR and double immunofluorescence analysis of white matter from rats that had received lipoic acid (100mg/kg/day) for 28 days exhibited markedly reduced expression of ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 over endothelial cells compared with that of rats receiving saline. In the rats treated with lipoic acid, the WM lesions after chronic cerebral hypoperfusion were significantly less severe, and the number of reactive astrocytes and activated microglia/macrophages (CD11b/c staining) were also significantly lower as compared with the saline-treated rats. These findings indicate that endothelial dysfunction plays a critical role in overexpression of ICAM-1 and VCAM-1, glial cell activation and WM lesions after chronic cerebral hypoperfusion and suggest the potential value of lipoic acid as a therapeutic tool in cerebrovascular WM lesions. Our results also provide support for endothelial activation being involved in early pathogenesis of WM lesions and suggest that therapies that stabilize the endothelium may have a role in preventing WM lesions progression.
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