Activation of testosterone-androgen receptor mediates cerebrovascular protection by photobiomodulation treatment in photothrombosis-induced stroke rats

Yu Feng, Zhihai Huang, Xiaohui Ma, Xuemei Zong, Celeste Yin Chieh Wu, Reggie Hui Chao Lee, Hung Wen Lin, Michael R. Hamblin, Quanguang Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rationale: Numerous epidemiological studies have reported a link between low testosterone levels and an increased risk of cerebrovascular disease in men. However, there is ongoing controversy surrounding testosterone replacement therapy due to potential side effects. PBMT has been demonstrated to improve cerebrovascular function and promote testosterone synthesis in peripheral tissues. Despite this, the molecular mechanisms that could connect PBMT with testosterone and vascular function in the brain of photothrombosis (PT)-induced stroke rats remain largely unknown. Methods: We measured behavioral performance, cerebral blood flow (CBF), vascular permeability, and the expression of vascular-associated and apoptotic proteins in PT-induced stroke rats treated with flutamide and seven consecutive days of PBM treatment (350 mW, 808 nM, 2 min/day). To gain further insights into the mechanism of PBM on testosterone synthesis, we used testosterone synthesis inhibitors to study their effects on bEND.3 cells. Results: We showed that PT stroke caused a decrease in cerebrovascular testosterone concentration, which was significantly increased by 7-day PBMT (808 nm, 350 mW/cm2, 42 J/cm2). Furthermore, PBMT significantly increased cerebral blood flow (CBF) and the expression of vascular-associated proteins, while inhibiting vascular permeability and reducing endothelial cell apoptosis. This ultimately mitigated behavioral deficits in PT stroke rats. Notably, treatment with the androgen receptor antagonist flutamide reversed the beneficial effects of PBMT. Cellular experiments confirmed that PBMT inhibited cell apoptosis and increased vascular-associated protein expression in brain endothelial cell line (bEnd.3) subjected to oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD). However, these effects were inhibited by flutamide. Moreover, mechanistic studies revealed that PBMT-induced testosterone synthesis in bEnd.3 cells was partly mediated by 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 5 (17β-HSD5). Conclusions: Our study provides evidence that PBMT attenuates cerebrovascular injury and behavioral deficits associated with testosterone/AR following ischemic stroke. Our findings suggest that PBMT may be a promising alternative approach for managing cerebrovascular diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14574
JournalCNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • PBMT
  • bEnd.3 cells
  • stroke
  • testosterone
  • vascular protection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental Health
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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