Our previous studies showed that Gastrodia elata (GE), an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine, has both anti-convulsive and free radical-scavenging activities in kainic acid (KA)-treated rats. The aim of the present study was to further investigate possible physiological mechanisms of GE against activities of neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) and microglia in KA-treated rats; 0.5 g/kg and 1.0 g/kg of GE extract were administered orally, whereas 20 mg/kg of N-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME) was administered intraperitoneally (ip), both at 30 minutes prior to KA (2 μg/2 μl) being injected into the right hippocampus region of rats. ED1-staining, apoptotic, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), and nNOS-staining cells were observed in the hippocampus region. The results indicated that 1.0 g/kg of GE and 20 mg/kg of L-NAME reduced the counts of ED1-stained cells, and 0.5 g/kg and 1.0 g/kg of GE, and 20 mg/kg of L-NAME reduced the numbers of apoptotic cells and nNOS-staining cells. In addition, 20 mg/kg of L-NAME also reduced the numbers of iNOS-staining cells, but 0.5 g/kg and 1.0 g/kg of GE did not. This study demonstrated that GE was able to reduce nNOS, microglia activation and apoptosis, suggesting that GE has a protective effect against neuronal damage in KA-treated rats.
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