Amyloid β (Aβ) plays a major role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The accumulation of misfolded Aβ causes oxidative and inflammatory damage leading to apoptotic cell death. Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) has been widely used in clinical practice to treat neurodegenerative diseases associated with oxidative stress and neuroinflammation. This study examined the neuroprotection effects of CHM extract Glycyrrhiza inflata (G. inflata) and its active constituents, licochalcone A and liquiritigenin in AD. We examined Aβ aggregation inhibition, anti-oxidation and neuroprotection in Tet-On Aβ-GFP 293/SH-SY5Y cells and anti-inflammatory potential in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated RAW 264.7 and LPS and interferon (IFN)-γ (LPS/IFN-γ)-activated BV-2 cells. In addition, we applied conditioned media (CM) of BV-2 cells primed with LPS/IFN-γ to Aβ-GFP SH-SY5Y cells to uncover the neuroprotective mechanisms. Our results showed that G. inflata extract and its two constituents displayed potentials of Aβ aggregation inhibition and radical-scavenging in biochemical assays, Aβ misfolding inhibition and reactive oxygen species (ROS) reduction in Aβ-GFP 293 cells, as well as neurite outgrowth promotion, acetylcholinesterase inhibition and SOD2 up-regulation in Aβ-GFP SH-SY5Y cells. Meanwhile, both G. inflata extract and its constituents suppressed NO, TNF-α, IL-1β, PGE2 and/or Iba1 productions in inflammation-stimulated RAW 264.7 or BV-2 cells. G. inflata extract and its constituents further protected Aβ-GFP SH-SY5Y cells from BV-2 CM-induced cell death by ameliorating reduced BCL2 and attenuating increased IGFBP2, cleaved CASP3, BAD and BAX. Collectively, G. inflata extract, licochalcone A and liquiritigenin display neuroprotection through exerting anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory activities to suppress neuronal apoptosis.
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