Baicalein attenuates impaired hippocampal neurogenesis and the neurocognitive deficits induced by γ-ray radiation

Br J Pharmacol. 2013 Jan;168(2):421-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2012.02142.x.


Background and purpose: Whole-brain irradiation (WBI) therapy produces learning and memory deficits in patients with brain tumours. Although the pathological cascade of cognitive deficits remains unknown, it may involve reduced neurogenesis within the hippocampus. Baicalein is a flavonoid derived from the roots of Huangqin, Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi, and has been shown to have antioxidant effects. Here, we have investigated the protective effects of baicalein on irradiation-induced impairments in hippocampal neurogenesis and cognitive function.

Experimental approach: Radioprotective effects of baicalein were evaluated in C17.2 neural progenitor cells and 6-week-old male C57BL/6 mice during hippocampal neurogenesis. Mice were given a single dose of 5 Gy WBI. Changes in hippocampal neurogenesis, oxidative stress and BDNF-pCREB signalling were evaluated. Morris water maze and passive avoidance test were used to assess learning and memory.

Key results: Baicalein protected neural progenitor cells against irradiation-induced necrotic cell death. Pretreatment with baicalein attenuated the irradiation-induced impairment of hippocampal neurogenesis by modulating oxidative stress and elevating BDNF-pCREB signalling. Furthermore, baicalein prevented the spatial learning and memory retention deficits follwing WBI.

Conclusions and implications: Our findings suggest that baicalein can be viewed as a potential therapeutic agent that protects against the impaired neurogenesis induced by WBI, and its neurocognitive consequences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Avoidance Learning / drug effects
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Cognition Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Flavanones / pharmacology
  • Flavanones / therapeutic use*
  • Gamma Rays
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Memory / radiation effects
  • Memory Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Memory Disorders / etiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neural Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Neurogenesis / drug effects
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects


  • Antioxidants
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Flavanones
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • baicalein