From Mitochondrial Function to Neuroprotection—an Emerging Role for Methylene Blue

Donovan Tucker, Yujiao Lu, Quanguang Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Methylene blue (MB) is a well-established drug with a long history of use, owing to its diverse range of use and its minimal side effect profile. MB has been used classically for the treatment of malaria, methemoglobinemia, and carbon monoxide poisoning, as well as a histological dye. Its role in the mitochondria, however, has elicited much of its renewed interest in recent years. MB can reroute electrons in the mitochondrial electron transfer chain directly from NADH to cytochrome c, increasing the activity of complex IV and effectively promoting mitochondrial activity while mitigating oxidative stress. In addition to its beneficial effect on mitochondrial protection, MB is also known to have robust effects in mitigating neuroinflammation. Mitochondrial dysfunction has been identified as a seemingly unifying pathological phenomenon across a wide range of neurodegenerative disorders, which thus positions methylene blue as a promising therapeutic. In both in vitro and in vivo studies, MB has shown impressive efficacy in mitigating neurodegeneration and the accompanying behavioral phenotypes in animal models for such conditions as stroke, global cerebral ischemia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and traumatic brain injury. This review summarizes recent work establishing MB as a promising candidate for neuroprotection, with particular emphasis on the contribution of mitochondrial function to neural health. Furthermore, this review will briefly examine the link between MB, neurogenesis, and improved cognition in respect to age-related cognitive decline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5137-5153
Number of pages17
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive enhancement
  • Methylene blue
  • Neurodegenerative disorders
  • Neurogenesis
  • Neuroprotection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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