After cerebral ischemia/reperfusion injury, pro-inflammatory M1 and anti-inflammatory M2 phenotypes of microglia are involved in neuroinflammation, in which activation of NLRP3 inflammasome and subsequent pyroptosis play essential roles. Salvianolic Acids for Injection (SAFI) is Chinese medicine injection which composed of multiple phenolic acids extracted from Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae, and has been reported to generate neuroprotective effects after cerebral ischemic insult in clinical and animal studies.
The present study was designed to investigate whether SAFI exerts neuroprotective effects by switching microglial phenotype and inhibiting NLRP3 inflammasome/pyroptosis axis in microglia.
The middle cerebral artery occlusion/reperfusion (MCAO/R) model in rats and oxygen-glucose deprivation/reoxygenation (OGD/R) model in co-cultured primary neurons and primary microglia were utilized. The neuroprotective effect of SAFI was evaluated through measuring neurological deficit scores, neuropathological changes, inflammatory factors, cell phenotype markers, and related proteins of NLRP3 inflammasome/pyroptosis axis.
The results showed that SAFI treatment was able to: (1) produce a significant increase in neurological deficit scores and decrease in infarct volumes, and alleviate histological injury and neuronal apoptosis in cerebral cortex in MCAO/R model; (2) increase neuronal viability and reduce neuronal apoptosis in the OGD model; (3) reshape microglial polarization patterns from M1-like phenotype to M2-like phenotype; (4) inhibit the activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome and the expression of proteins related to NLRP3 inflammasome/pyroptosis axis in vivo and in vitro.
These findings indicate that SAFI exert neuroprotective effect, probably via reducing neuronal apoptosis, switching microglial phenotype from M1 towards M2, and inhibiting NLRP3 inflammasome/pyroptosis axis in microglia.

Copyright © 2021 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.