In order to improve the therapeutic effects of mesenchymal stem cell (MSC)-based therapies for a number of intractable neurological disorders, a more favorable strategy to regulate the outcome of bone marrow MSCs (bMSCs) was examined in the present study. In view of the wide range of neurotrophic and neuroprotective effects, Tetramethylpyrazine (TMP), a biologically active alkaloid isolated from the herbal medicine Ligusticum wallichii, was used. It was revealed that treatment with 30–50 mg/l TMP for 4 days significantly increased cell viability, alleviated senescence by suppressing NF-κB signaling, and promoted bMSC proliferation by regulating the cell cycle. In addition, 40–50 mg/l TMP treatment may facilitate the neuronal differentiation of bMSCs, verified in the present study by presentation of neuronal morphology and expression of neuronal markers: microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP-2) and neuron-specific enolase (NSE). The quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) revealed that TMP treatment may promote the expression of neurogenin 1 (Ngn1), neuronal differentiation 1 (NeuroD) and mammalian achaete–scute homolog 1 (Mash1). In conclusion, 4 days of 40–50 mg/l TMP treatment may significantly delay bMSC senescence by suppressing NF-κB signaling, and enhancing the self-renewal ability of bMSCs, and their potential for neuronal differentiation.

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