Background: In order to gain insight into neuroprotective effects of ECa 233, a standardized extract of Centella asiatica, previously demonstrated in animal models of memory impairment induced by transient global ischemia or intracerebroventricular injection of β-amyloid, the effect of ECa 233 on neurite outgrowth of human IMR-32 neuroblastoma cell line was investigated.
Methods: Cells were seeded and incubated with various concentrations of ECa 233. Morphometric analysis was carried out by a measurement of the longest neurite growth of cells at 24 and 48 h. Contributing signaling pathways possibly involved were subsequently elucidated by western blot analysis.
Results: While ECa 233 had only limited effects on cell viability, it significantly enhanced neurite outgrowth of IMR-32 cells at the concentrations of 1-100 μg/ml. Western blot analysis revealed that ECa 233 significantly upregulated the level of activated ERK1/2 and Akt of the treated cells suggesting their involvement in the neuritogenic effect observed, which was subsequently verified by the finding that an addition of their respective inhibitors could reverse the effect of ECa 233 on these cells.
Conclusions: The present study clearly demonstrated neurite outgrowth promoting activity of ECa 233. ERK1/2 and Akt signaling pathways seemed to account for the neurotrophic effect observed. In conjunction with in vivo neuroprotective effect of ECa 233 previously reported, the results obtained support further development of ECa 233 for clinical use in neuronal injury or neurodegenerative diseases.