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We aim to investigate the mechanism of aquaporin 4 (AQP 4) up-regulation during high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) in rats under hypobaric hypoxia and preventative effect of puerarin.Rats were exposed to a hypobaric chamber with or without the preventative treatment of puerarin or dexamethasone. Morriz water maze was used to evaluate the spatial memory injury. HE staining and W/D ratio were used to evaluate edema injury. Rat astrocytes and microglia were co-cultured under the condition of hypoxia with the administration of p38 inhibitor, NF-κB inhibitor or puerarin. Interleukin 6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF α) of cortex and culture supernatant were measured with ELISA. AQP4, phosphorylation of MAPKs, NF-κB pathway of cortex and astrocytes were measured by Western blot.Weakened spatial memory and cerebral edema were observed after hypobaric hypoxia exposure. AQP4, phosphorylation of NF-κB and MAPK signal pathway of cortex increased after hypoxia exposure and decreased with preventative treatment of puerarin. Hypoxia increased TNF-α and IL-6 levels in cortex and microglia and puerarin could prevent the increase of them. AQP4 of astrocytes increased after co-cultured with microglia when both were exposed to hypoxia. AQP4 showed a decrease after administered with p38 inhibitor, NF-κB inhibitor or puerarin.Hypoxia triggers inflammatory response, during which AQP4 of astrocytes can be up regulated through the release of TNF-α and IL-6 from microglia. Puerarin can exert a preventative effect on the increase of AQP4 through inhibiting the release of TNF-α and phosphorylation of NF-κB, MAPK pathway.