Ethnopharmacological relevance: Moringa oleifera Lam. (Moringaceae) by virtue of its high nutritional as well as ethnomedical values has been gaining profound interest both in nutrition and medicinal research. The leaf of this plant is used in ayurvedic medicine to treat paralysis, nervous debility and other nerve disorders. In addition, research evidence also suggests the nootropic as well as neuroprotective roles of Moringa oleifera leaf in animal models. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effect of Moringa oleifera leaf in the primary hippocampal neurons regarding its neurotrophic and neuroprotective properties.
Materials and methods: The primary culture of embryonic hippocampal neurons was incubated with the ethanol extract of Moringa oleifera leaf (MOE). After an indicated time, cultures were either stained directly with a lipophilic dye, DiO, or fixed and immunolabeled to visualize the neuronal morphology. Morphometric analyses for neurite maturation and synaptogenesis were performed using Image J software. Neuronal viability was evaluated using trypan blue exclusion and lactate dehydrogenase assays.
Results: MOE promoted neurite outgrowth in a concentration-dependent manner with an optimal concentration of 30 μg/mL. As a very initial effect, MOE significantly promoted the earlier stages of neuronal differentiation. Subsequently, MOE significantly increased the number and length of dendrites, the length of axon, and the number and length of both dendrite and axonal branches, and eventually facilitated synaptogenesis. The β-carotene, one major compound of MOE, promoted neuritogensis, but the increase was not comparable with the effect of MOE. In addition, MOE supported neuronal survival by protecting neurons from naturally occurring cell death in vitro.
Conclusions: Our findings indicate that MOE promotes axodendritic maturation as well as provides neuroprotection suggesting a promising pharmacological importance of this nutritionally and ethnomedically important plant for the well-being of nervous system.
Keywords: Hippocampal neuron; Moringa oleifera; Neurite development; Neuronal survival; Synaptogenesis; β-carotene.
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