Possible neuroprotective effect of Withania somnifera root extract against 3-nitropropionic acid-induced behavioral, biochemical, and mitochondrial dysfunction in an animal model of Huntington's disease

J Med Food. 2009 Jun;12(3):591-600. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2008.0028.


Huntington's disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that results from the destruction of neurons in the basal ganglia, and oxidative stress has been implicated in its pathogenesis. 3-Nitropropionic acid (3-NP), a potent neurotoxin, has been reported to induce oxidative/nitrosative stress and causes neurobehavioral and biochemical changes that mimic HD in humans. It also inhibits complex II of the mitochondrial electron transport chain, thereby causing cellular energy deficit. In the present work, we evaluated the effects of a well-known antioxidant on behavioral, biochemical, and mitochondrial dysfunction induced by 3-NP. The study was designed to investigate the effects of Withania somnifera root extract against 3-NP-induced gait abnormalities, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial dysfunction in striatum and cortex of rat brain. Intraperitoneal administration of 3-NP (10 mg/kg for 14 days) caused a loss in body weight and a decline in motor function (locomotor activity and impaired rotarod activity). Chronic treatment with W. somnifera root extracts (100 and 200 mg/kg) for a period of 2 weeks dose-dependently improved 3-NP-induced behavioral, biochemical, and enzymatic changes (P < .05). Biochemical analysis revealed that systemic 3-NP administration significantly increased lipid peroxidation and nitrite and lactate dehydrogenase enzyme levels, depleted antioxidant enzyme (superoxide dismutase and catalase) levels, and blocked ATP synthesis by inhibiting the mitochondrial complex activity in the different regions (striatum and cortex) of the brain. Chronic administration of W. somnifera root extract (100 and 200 mg/kg) dose-dependently restored biochemical alterations induced by chronic 3-NP treatment (P < .05). These findings suggest that neuroprotective actions of W. somnifera are mediated via its antioxidant activity. However, further studies are required to elucidate the molecular mechanisms involved in order to support the clinical use of the plant extract as a therapeutic agent for the treatment of HD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Catalase / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Huntington Disease / chemically induced
  • Huntington Disease / drug therapy*
  • Huntington Disease / metabolism
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Lipid Peroxidation / drug effects
  • Male
  • Mitochondria / drug effects*
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Neurotoxins
  • Nitro Compounds
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Plant Roots
  • Propionates
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Withania*


  • Antioxidants
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Neurotoxins
  • Nitro Compounds
  • Plant Extracts
  • Propionates
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Oxidoreductases
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase
  • Catalase
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • nitrite dehydrogenase
  • 3-nitropropionic acid