Incorporation of sodium channel blocking and free radical scavenging activities into a single drug, AM-36, results in profound inhibition of neuronal apoptosis


Department of Pharmacology, P.O. Box 13E, Monash University, Victoria 3800, Australia. E-mail:


  • AM-36 is a novel neuroprotective agent incorporating both antioxidant and Na+ channel blocking actions. In cerebral ischaemia, loss of cellular ion homeostasis due to Na+ channel activation, together with increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, are thought to contribute to neuronal death. Since neuronal death in the penumbra of the ischaemic lesion is suggested to occur by apoptosis, we investigated the ability of AM-36, antioxidants and Na+ channel antagonists to inhibit toxicity induced by the neurotoxin, veratridine in cultured cerebellar granule cells (CGC's).

  • Veratridine (10 – 300 μM) concentration-dependently reduced cell viability of cultured CGC's. Under the experimental conditions employed, cell death induced by veratridine (100 μM) possessed the characteristics of apoptosis as assessed by morphology, TUNEL staining and DNA laddering on agarose gels.

  • Neurotoxicity and apoptosis induced by veratridine (100 μM) were inhibited to a maximum of 50% by the antioxidants, U74500A (0.1 – 10 μM) and U83836E (0.03 – 10 μM), and to a maximum of 30% by the Na+ channel blocker, dibucaine (0.1 – 100 μM). In contrast, AM-36 (0.01 – 10 μM) completely inhibited veratridine-induced toxicity (IC50 1.7 (1.5 – 1.9) μM, 95% confidence intervals (CI) in parentheses) and concentration-dependently inhibited apoptosis.

  • These findings suggest veratridine-induced toxicity and apoptosis are partially mediated by generation of ROS. AM-36, which combines both Na+ channel blocking and antioxidant activity, provided superior neuroprotection compared with agents possessing only one of these actions. This bifunctional profile of activity may underlie the potent neuroprotective effects of AM-36 recently found in a stroke model in conscious rats.

British Journal of Pharmacology (2001) 132, 1691–1698; doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0704018