Background: The pathogenic accumulation of amyloid β peptide (Aβ), a natural occurring peptide processed from beta-amyloid precursor protein (APP), is considered to play a key role in the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Ginsenoside Rg1, an active component in ginseng, has been identified as a phytoestrogen and also found to be neuroprotective. However, it is unknown whether Rg1-induced estrogenic activity intervenes in APP processing, and improves memory performance.
Methods: Using HT22 cells and SH-SY5Y cells stably expressing the Swedish mutant APP (APPsw), this study investigated whether Rg1 intervened in APP metabolism through estrogenic activity. Using the ovariectomized (OVX) rats to mimic age-related changes in postmenopausal females, this study also tested the long-term effect of Rg1 on APP metabolism.
Results: The in vitro study demonstrated that Rg1 increased extracellular secretion of soluble amyloid precursor protein α (sAPPα), enhanced α-secretase activity and decreased extracellular release of Aβ. These effects of Rg1 could be prevented by inhibitors of protein kinase C (PKC), Extracellular-Signal Regulated Kinase/Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase (ERK/MAPK) and Phosphoinositide-3 kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathways. Inhibition of endogenous estrogen receptor (ER) activity abrogated Rg1-triggered release of sAPPα, increase of α-secretase activity, and activation of ERK and Akt signaling. In addition, Rg1 promoted phosphorylation of ERα at Ser118 residue. The in vivo study demonstrated that 8-week Rg1 treatment of OVX rats increased sAPPα levels and decreased Aβ content in the hippocampi, and improved the spatial learning and memory.
General significance: Rg1 might be used to slow or prevent AD, in particular in postmenopausal females.
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