Background and purpose: The effects of bergamot essential oil (BEO; Citrus bergamia, Risso) on excitotoxic neuronal damage was investigated in vitro.
Experimental approach: The study was performed in human SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells exposed to N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA). Cell viability was measured by dye exclusion. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) and caspase-3 activity were measured fluorimetrically. Calpain I activity and the activation (phosphorylation) of Akt and glycogen synthase kinase-3beta (GSK-3beta) were assayed by Western blotting.
Key results: NMDA induced concentration-dependent, receptor-mediated, death of SH-SY5Y cells, ranging from 11 to 25% (0.25-5 mM). Cell death induced by 1 mM NMDA (21%) was preceded by a significant accumulation of intracellular ROS and by a rapid activation of the calcium-activated protease calpain I. In addition, NMDA caused a rapid deactivation of Akt kinase and this preceded the detrimental activation of the downstream kinase, GSK-3beta. BEO (0.0005-0.01%) concentration dependently reduced death of SH-SY5Y cells caused by 1 mM NMDA. In addition to preventing ROS accumulation and activation of calpain, BEO (0.01%) counteracted the deactivation of Akt and the consequent activation of GSK-3beta, induced by NMDA. Results obtained by using specific fractions of BEO, suggested that monoterpene hydrocarbons were responsible for neuroprotection afforded by BEO against NMDA-induced cell death.
Conclusions and implications: Our data demonstrate that BEO reduces neuronal damage caused in vitro by excitotoxic stimuli and that this neuroprotection was associated with prevention of injury-induced engagement of critical death pathways.