Lanthionine ketimine ester promotes locomotor recovery after spinal cord injury by reducing neuroinflammation and promoting axon growth

Ken Kotaka, Jun Nagai, Kenneth Hensley, Toshio Ohshima*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The mammalian central nervous system (CNS) has limited regenerative ability after injury, largely due to scar formation and axonal growth inhibitors. Experimental suppression of neuroinflammation encourages recovery from spinal cord injury (SCI), yet practical means for pharmacologically treating SCI have remained elusive. Lanthionine ketimine (LK) is a natural brain sulfur amino acid metabolite with demonstrated anti-neuroinflammatory and neurotrophic activities. LK and its synthetic brain-penetrating ethyl ester (LKE) promote growth factor-dependent neurite extension in cultured cell and suppress microglial activation in animal models of neurodegeneration. Thus far however, LKE has not been explored as a potential therapy for SCI. The present study investigated the hypothesis that systemic LKE could improve motor functional recovery after SCI in a mouse model. Intraperitoneal administration of LKE (100 mg/kg/d) after near-complete transect of spinal cord at the T7 level significantly improved motor function over a 4-week time course. Vehicle-treated mice, in contrast, demonstrated negligible functional recovery. In terms of histology, LKE treatment reduced pro-neuroinflammatory microglia/macrophage activation evidenced by quantitative Iba1 labeling and shifted the microglial phenotype toward a more neurotrophic M2 character evidenced by changes in the M2 marker arginase-1. This was correlated with less dense scar formation and more extensive axonal regrowth across the transection site demonstrated by 5-hydroxytryptamine (5HT) immunolabeling of raphespinal tract axons. These data provide evidence that LKE or similar compounds have potential therapeutic value for recovery after certain forms of SCI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)759-764
Number of pages6
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jan 29


  • CRMP2
  • Lanthionine ketimine
  • Microglia
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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