Exploring the neuroprotective effects of montelukast on brain inflammation and metabolism in a rat model of quinolinic acid-induced striatal neurotoxicity

Margherita Tassan Mazzocco, Valentina Murtaj, Daniel Martins, Roberta Schellino, Angela Coliva, Elisa Toninelli, Alessandro Vercelli, Federico Turkheimer, Sara Belloli, Rosa Maria Moresco*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: One intrastriatal administration of quinolinic acid (QA) in rats induces a lesion with features resembling those observed in Huntington’s disease. Our aim is to evaluate the effects of the cysteinyl leukotriene receptor antagonist montelukast (MLK), which exhibited neuroprotection in different preclinical models of neurodegeneration, on QA-induced neuroinflammation and regional metabolic functions. Methods: The right and left striatum of Sprague Dawley and athymic nude rats were injected with QA and vehicle (VEH), respectively. Starting from the day before QA injection, animals were treated with 1 or 10 mg/kg of MLK or VEH for 14 days. At 14 and 30 days post-lesion, animals were monitored with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) using [18F]-VC701, a translocator protein (TSPO)-specific radiotracer. Striatal neuroinflammatory response was measured post-mortem in rats treated with 1 mg/kg of MLK by immunofluorescence. Rats treated with 10 mg/kg of MLK also underwent a [18F]-FDG PET study at baseline and 4 months after lesion. [18F]-FDG PET data were then used to assess metabolic connectivity between brain regions by applying a covariance analysis method. Results: MLK treatment was not able to reduce the QA-induced increase in striatal TSPO PET signal and MRI lesion volume, where we only detected a trend towards reduction in animals treated with 10 mg/kg of MLK. Post-mortem immunofluorescence analysis revealed that MLK attenuated the increase in striatal markers of astrogliosis and activated microglia in the lesioned hemisphere. We also found a significant increase in a marker of anti-inflammatory activity (MannR) and a trend towards reduction in a marker of pro-inflammatory activity (iNOS) in the lesioned striatum of MLK—compared to VEH-treated rats. [18F]-FDG uptake was significantly reduced in the striatum and ipsilesional cortical regions of VEH-treated rats at 4 months after lesion. MLK administration preserved glucose metabolism in these cortical regions, but not in the striatum. Finally, MLK was able to counteract changes in metabolic connectivity and measures of network topology induced by QA, in both lesioned and non-lesioned hemispheres. Conclusions: Overall, MLK treatment produced a significant neuroprotective effect by reducing neuroinflammation assessed by immunofluorescence and preserving regional brain metabolism and metabolic connectivity from QA-induced neurotoxicity in cortical and subcortical regions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number34
JournalJournal of neuroinflammation
Issue number1
Early online date13 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • 18-kDa translocator protein
  • Cysteinyl leukotriene receptor antagonist
  • Medium spiny neurons
  • Metabolic connectivity
  • Montelukast
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Quinolinic acid


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