In vitro and in vivo neuroprotective activity of the cardiac glycoside oleandrin from Nerium oleander in brain slice-based stroke models

J Neurochem. 2011 Nov;119(4):805-14. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2011.07439.x. Epub 2011 Sep 26.


The principal active constituent of the botanical drug candidate PBI-05204, a supercritical CO(2) extract of Nerium oleander, is the cardiac glycoside oleandrin. PBI-05204 shows potent anticancer activity and is currently in phase I clinical trial as a treatment for patients with solid tumors. We have previously shown that neriifolin, which is structurally related to oleandrin, provides robust neuroprotection in brain slice and whole animal models of ischemic injury. However, neriifolin itself is not a suitable drug development candidate and the FDA-approved cardiac glycoside digoxin does not cross the blood-brain barrier. We report here that both oleandrin as well as the full PBI-05204 extract can also provide significant neuroprotection to neural tissues damaged by oxygen and glucose deprivation as occurs in ischemic stroke. Critically, we show that the neuroprotective activity of PBI-05204 is maintained for several hours of delay of administration after oxygen and glucose deprivation treatment. We provide evidence that the neuroprotective activity of PBI-05204 is mediated through oleandrin and/or other cardiac glycoside constituents, but that additional, non-cardiac glycoside components of PBI-05204 may also contribute to the observed neuroprotective activity. Finally, we show directly that both oleandrin and the protective activity of PBI-05204 are blood brain barrier penetrant in a novel model for in vivo neuroprotection. Together, these findings suggest clinical potential for PBI-05204 in the treatment of ischemic stroke and prevention of associated neuronal death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardenolides / therapeutic use*
  • Cardiac Glycosides / chemistry
  • Cardiac Glycosides / therapeutic use
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Glucose / deficiency
  • Hypoxia / drug therapy
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Nerium / chemistry*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Phytotherapy / methods*
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase / metabolism
  • Stroke / prevention & control*
  • Time Factors
  • Transfection / methods


  • Cardenolides
  • Cardiac Glycosides
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase
  • oleandrin
  • Glucose