Background: Ischemic stroke is a devastating disease that causes long-term disability. However, its pathogenesis is unclear, and treatments for ischemic stroke are limited. Recent studies indicate that oxidative stress is involved in the pathological progression of ischemic stroke and that angiogenesis participates in recovery from ischemic stroke. Furthermore, previous studies have shown that Coicis Semen has antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects in a variety of diseases. In the present study, we investigated whether Coicis Semen has a protective effect against ischemic stroke and the mechanism of this protective effect.

Results: Coicis Semen administration significantly decreased the infarct volume and mortality and alleviated neurological deficits at 3, 7 and 14 days after MCAO. In addition, cerebral edema at 3 days poststroke was ameliorated by Coicis Semen treatment. DHE staining showed that ROS levels in the vehicle group were increased at 3 days after reperfusion and then gradually declined, but Coicis Semen treatment reduced ROS levels. The levels of GSH and SOD in the brain were increased by Coicis Semen treatment, while MDA levels were reduced. Furthermore, Coicis Semen treatment decreased the extravasation of EB dye in MCAO mouse brains and elevated expression of the tight junction proteins ZO-1 and Occludin. Double immunofluorescence staining and western blot analysis showed that the expression of angiogenesis markers and TGFβ pathway-related proteins was increased by Coicis Semen administration. Consistent with the in vivo results, cytotoxicity assays showed that Coicis Semen substantially promoted HUVEC survival following OGD/RX in vitro. Additionally, though LY2109761 inhibited the activation of TGFβ signaling in OGD/RX model animals, Coicis Semen cotreatment markedly reversed the downregulation of TGFβ pathway-related proteins and increased VEGF levels.

Methods: Adult male wild-type C57BL/6J mice were used to develop a middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) stroke model. Infarct size, neurological deficits and behavior were evaluated on days 3, 7 and 14 after staining. In addition, changes in superoxide dismutase (SOD), GSH and malondialdehyde (MDA) levels were detected with a commercial kit. Blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability was assessed with Evans blue (EB) dye. Western blotting was also performed to measure the levels of tight junction proteins of the BBB. Additionally, ELISA was performed to measure the level of VEGF in the brain. The colocalization of CD31, angiogenesis markers, and Smad1/5 was assessed by double immunofluorescent staining. TGFβ pathway-related proteins were measured by western blotting. Furthermore, the cell viability of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) following oxygen-glucose deprivation/reoxygenation (OGD/RX) was measured by Cell Counting Kit (CCK)-8 assay.

Conclusions: Coicis Semen treatment alleviates brain damage induced by ischemic stroke through inhibiting oxidative stress and promoting angiogenesis by activating the TGFβ/ALK1 signaling pathway.