Molecular Neurobiology

, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 267–277 | Cite as

Ursodeoxycholic Acid Inhibits Inflammatory Responses and Promotes Functional Recovery After Spinal Cord Injury in Rats

  • Wan-Kyu Ko
  • Seong Jun Kim
  • Min-Jae Jo
  • Hyemin Choi
  • Donghyun Lee
  • Il Keun Kwon
  • Soo-Hong Lee
  • In-Bo HanEmail author
  • Seil SohnEmail author


The aim of this study was to investigate the anti-inflammatory effects by ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) in rats with a spinal cord injury (SCI). A moderate mechanical compression injury was imposed on adult Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats. The post-injury locomotor functions were assessed using the Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan (BBB) locomotor scale and the tissue volume of the injured region was analyzed using hematoxylin and eosin staining. The pro-inflammatory factors were evaluated by immunofluorescence (IF) staining, a quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR), and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The phosphorylation of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), and p38 in mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathways related to inflammatory responses were measured by Western blot assays. UDCA improved the BBB scores and promoted the recovery of the spinal cord lesions. UDCA inhibited the expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), ionized calcium-binding adapter molecule 1 (iba1), and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). UDCA decreased the pro-inflammatory cytokines of TNF-α, interleukin 1-β (IL-1β), and interleukin 6 (IL-6) in the mRNA and protein levels. UDCA increased the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin 10 (IL-10) in the mRNA and protein levels. UDCA suppressed the phosphorylation of ERK, JNK, and the p38 signals. UDCA reduces pro-inflammatory responses and promotes functional recovery in SCI in rats. These results suggest that UDCA is a potential therapeutic drug for SCI.


Ursodeoxycholic acid Spinal cord injury BBB score MAPK signaling TNF-α Anti-inflammation 


Funding Information

This work was supported by Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT, and future Planning (NRF-2016M3A9E8941668).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

12035_2018_994_Fig9_ESM.gif (18 kb)
Fig. S1

Quantification of GFAP and TNF-α in injured spinal cords. (A) Quantitative analysis of the fluorescence intensity for GFAP. (B) Analysis of the quantitative fluorescence intensity for TNF-α. Results are the mean ± SEM: *p < 0.05 and **p < 0.01, significant differences among three groups were demonstrated. (GIF 18 kb)

12035_2018_994_MOESM1_ESM.tif (2.6 mb)
High resolution image (TIFF 2700 kb)
12035_2018_994_Fig10_ESM.gif (16 kb)
Fig. S2

Quantification of iba1 and iNOS in injured spinal cords. (A) Quantitative analysis of the fluorescence intensity for iba1. (B) Analysis of the quantitative fluorescence intensity for iNOS. Results are the mean ± SEM: *p < 0.05 and **p < 0.01, significant differences among three groups were demonstrated. (GIF 15 kb)

12035_2018_994_MOESM2_ESM.tif (2.6 mb)
High resolution image (TIFF 2700 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neurosurgery, CHA Bundang Medical CenterCHA UniversitySeongnam-siRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.Department of Dentistry, Graduate SchoolKyung Hee UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea
  3. 3.Department of Dental Materials, School of DentistryKyung Hee UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea
  4. 4.Department of Biomedical ScienceCHA UniversitySeongnam-siRepublic of Korea

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