Angiotensin II type 2 receptor (AT2R) stimulation is neuroprotective after experimental stroke. However, the therapeutic utility of AT2R stimulation has been hampered by the lack of a specific agonist with favourable bioavailability. Compound 21 (C21) – the first non-peptide AT2R agonist – offers a potential option to enhance stroke recovery. This study aimed to investigate the effect of C21 administration on early and late stroke outcomes, and the molecular mediators involved.Methods:
Rats were subjected to 3 h or 90 min of middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) and randomized to intraperitoneal C21 (0.03 mg/kg) or saline at reperfusion. Animals were sacrificed at 24 h or 7 days and brains were collected for molecular analysis and immunostaining, respectively. Functional outcome at days 1, 4 and 7 was assessed blindly. C21 angiogenic potential was assessed in vitro.Results:
After 3 h of MCAO, C21 treatment reduced infarct size and improved behavioural outcome at 24 h without affecting blood pressure. Co-administration of the AT2R antagonist (PD123319) blocked these effects. On the molecular level, C21 decreased brain haemoglobin content, down-regulated apoptotic and oxidative markers, and increased pro-survival molecules in the brain. After 90 min of MCAO, C21 treatment resulted in sustained functional improvement at 7 days, together with increased vascular density in the ischemic penumbra. In vitro, C21 showed a pro-angiogenic effect that was blocked with brain-derived neurotrophic factor neutralization.Conclusion:
These findings demonstrate that a single dose of C21 is neurovascular-protective and improves stroke outcome possibly through increasing neurotrophin activity, mitigating brain inflammation, and promoting antioxidant and pro-angiogenic effects.