Food and Behaviour Research

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Lychee Seed Saponins Improve Cognitive Function and Prevent Neuronal Injury via Inhibiting Neuronal Apoptosis in a Rat Model of Alzheimer's Disease

Wang X, Wu J, Yu C, Tang Y, Liu J, Chen H, Jin B, Mei Q, Cao S, Qin D (2017)  Nutrients.  9(2).  pii: E105. doi: 10.3390/nu9020105. 

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Lychee seed is a traditional Chinese medicine and possesses many activities, including hypoglycemia, liver protection, antioxidation, antivirus, and antitumor. However, its effect on neuroprotection is still unclear.

The present study investigated the effects of lychee seed saponins (LSS) on neuroprotection and associated mechanisms. We established a rat model of Alzheimer's disease (AD) by injecting Aβ25-35 into the lateral ventricle of rats and evaluated the effect of LSS on spatial learning and memory ability via the Morris water maze. Neuronal apoptosis was analyzed by hematoxylin and eosin stain and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (Tdt)-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling analysis, and mRNA expression of caspase-3 and protein expressions of Bax and Bcl-2 by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and Western blotting, respectively.

The results showed that LSS remarkably improved cognitive function and alleviated neuronal injury by inhibiting apoptosis in the hippocampus of AD rats. Furthermore, the mRNA expression of caspase-3 and the protein expression of Bax were downregulated, while the protein expression of Bcl-2 and the ratio of Bcl-2/Bax were increased by LSS.

We demonstrate that LSS significantly improves cognitive function and prevent neuronal injury in the AD rats via regulation of the apoptosis pathway. Therefore, LSS may be developed as a nutritional supplement and sold as a drug for AD prevention and/or treatment.