This study investigated the neuroprotective effect of salvianolic acids (SA) against ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury, and explored whether the neuroprotection was dependent on mitochondrial connexin43 (mtCx43) via the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/protein kinase B (PI3K/AKT) pathway. In vitro, we measured astrocyte apoptosis, mitochondrial membrane potential, and also evaluated the morphology of astrocyte mitochondria with transmission electron microscopy. In vivo, we determined the cerebral infarction volume and measured superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity and malondialdehyde (MDA) content. Additionally, mtCx43, p-mtCx43, AKT, and p-AKT levels were determined. In vitro, we found that I/R injury induced apoptosis, decreased cell mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP), and damaged mitochondrial morphology in astrocytes. In vivo, we found that I/R injury resulted in a large cerebral infarction, decreased SOD activity, and increased MDA expression. Additionally, I/R injury reduced both the p-mtCx43/mtCx43 and p-AKT/AKT ratios. We reported that both in vivo and in vitro, SA ameliorated the detrimental outcomes of the I/R. Interestingly, co-administering an inhibitor of the PI3K/AKT pathway blunted the effects of SA. SA represents a potential treatment option for cerebral infarction by up-regulating mtCx43 through the PI3K/AKT pathway.
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