Sustained administration of corticosterone at stress-like levels after stroke suppressed glial reactivity at sites of thalamic secondary neurodegeneration

Katarzyna Zalewska, Giovanni Pietrogrande, Lin Kooi Ong, Mahmoud Abdolhoseini, Murielle Kluge, Sarah J. Johnson, Frederick R. Walker, Michael Nilsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Secondary neurodegeneration (SND) is an insidious and progressive condition involving the death of neurons in regions of the brain that were connected to but undamaged by the initial stroke. Our group have published compelling evidence that exposure to psychological stress can significantly exacerbate the severity SND, a finding that has considerable clinical implications given that stroke-survivors often report experiencing high and unremitting levels of psychological stress. It may be possible to use one or more targeted pharmacological approaches to limit the negative effects of stress on the recovery process but in order to move forward with this approach the most critical stress signals have to be identified. Accordingly, in the current study we have directed our attention to examining the potential effects of corticosterone, delivered orally at stress-like levels. Our interest is to determine how similar the effects of corticosterone are to stress on repair and remodelling that is known to occur after stroke. The study involved 4 groups, sham and stroke, either administered corticosterone or normal drinking water. The functional impact was assessed using the cylinder task for paw asymmetry, grid walk for sensorimotor function, inverted grid for muscle strength and coordination and open field for anxiety-like behaviour. Biochemically and histologically, we considered disturbances in main cellular elements of the neurovascular unit, including microglia, astrocytes, neurons and blood vessels using both immunohistochemistry and western blotting. In short, we identified that corticosterone delivery after stroke results in significant suppression of key microglial and astroglial markers. No changes were observed on the vasculature and in neuronal specific markers. No changes were identified for sensorimotor function or anxiety-like behaviour. We did, however, observe a significant change in motor function as assessed using the inverted grid walk test. Collectively, these results suggest that pharmacologically targeting corticosterone levels in the future may be warranted but that such an approach is unlikely to limit all the negative effects associated with exposure to chronic stress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-222
Number of pages13
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Astrocytes
  • Corticosterone
  • Microglia
  • Neurons
  • Neurovascular unit
  • Stroke
  • Vessels

Cite this