Neuroprotective effects of Withania somnifera dunal.: A possible mechanism

Neurochem Res. 2009 Nov;34(11):1975-83. doi: 10.1007/s11064-009-9987-7. Epub 2009 May 15.


Present study was carried out to understand the possible mechanism of neuroprotective action of the root extract of Withania somnifera Dunal (WS). The study is focused on WS mediated inhibition of nitric oxide production, which is known to mediate neurodegeneration during stress. Adult mice (28 +/- 5 g) were exposed to restraint stress for 30 days. Activity of NADPH diaphorase (NADPH-d) and factors (Acetylcholine, serotonin and corticosterone), which regulates NADPH-d activity were studied. Treatment with WS extract for 30 days during stress, significantly reversed the stress induced NADPH-d activation. Observations suggest that inhibition of NADPH-d by WS is not a direct effect of extract on NADPH-d, instead it inhibits via suppressing corticosterone release and activating cholineacetyltransferase, which in turn increase serotonin level in hippocampus to inhibit NADPH-d. Together, the main mechanism underlying the neuroprotective effects of WS can be attributed to its role in the down regulation of nNOS and neurochemical alterations of specific neurotransmitter systems. These observations thus suggest that WS root extract could be developed as a potential preventive or therapeutic drug for stress induced neurological disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Chronic Disease
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • NADPH Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Roots / chemistry
  • Restraint, Physical
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Solanaceae / chemistry*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism


  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Plant Extracts
  • Serotonin
  • NADPH Dehydrogenase
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase
  • Corticosterone