Multi-parametric MRI assessment of melatonin regulating the polarization of microglia in rats after cerebral ischemia/reperfusion injury

Zhen Li, Ping Gong, Mengbei Zhang, Chen Li, Peilun Xiao, Miao Yu, Xizhen Wang, Lin An, Fangfang Bi, Xiaolei Song, Xiaoli Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Multi-parametric magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can provide comprehensive and valuable information for precise diagnosis and treatment evaluation of a number of diseases. In this study, the neuroprotective effects of melatonin (Mel) on a rat model of cerebral ischemia/reperfusion injury (CIRI) were assessed by multi-parametric MRI combined with histopathological techniques for longitudinal monitoring of the lesion microenvironment. Methods: Sixty Sprague Dawley (SD) rats were randomly divided into three groups: the Sham, CIRI and CIRI + Mel groups. At multiple time points after ischemia, MRI scanning was performed on a 7.0 Tesla MRI scanner. Multi-parametric MRI includes T2-weighted imaging (T2WI), diffusion weighted imaging (DWI), and chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST)-MRI. CEST effects were calculated by the Lorentzian difference method, 3.5 ppm indicates amide protons of mobile proteins/peptide (Amide-CEST) and 2.0 ppm indicates amine protons (Guan-CEST). Multiple histopathological techniques were used to examine the histopathological changes and explore the therapeutic effects of Mel. Results: T2WI and DWI-MRI could localize the infarct foci and areas in CIRI rats, which was further validated by staining, 2, 3, 5-triphenyl tetrazolium chloride (TTC) staining, hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining, and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate-biotin nick end labelling (TUNEL) staining. After Mel treatment, T2WI and DWI-MRI showed smaller infarct volume, and neurons displayed improved morphology with less apoptosis rates. Notably, Amide-CEST and Guan-CEST signal decreased as early as 2 h after CIRI (all P <0.001), reflecting the change of pH after ischemia. After Mel treatment, both Amide-CEST and Guan-CEST signal increased in ischemic cortex and striatum compared with control group (all P < 0.001). The immunofluorescence staining and western blotting analysis suggested the expression of M2 microglia increased after Mel treatment; While,after Mel treatment the inflammatory factor interleukin-1β (IL-1β) decreased compared with control CIRI rats. Conclusions: Multi-parametric MRI was shown to be an effective method to monitor the brain damage in a rat model of CIRI and assess the therapeutic effects of Mel treatment. Amide-CEST and Guan-CEST were especially sensitive to the changes in brain microenvironment during the early stage after CIRI. Furthermore, the neuroprotective effect of Mel treatment is associated with its promotion of the microglia polarized to M2 type in CIRI rats.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110807
JournalBrain Research Bulletin
StatePublished - Nov 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute ischemic stroke
  • Cerebral ischemia/reperfusion injury
  • Chemical exchange saturation transfer
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Microglial polarization
  • Neuroprotection


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