Glutamate is one of the major excitatory neurotransmitters of the CNS and is essential for numerous key neuronal functions. However, excess glutamate causes massive neuronal death and brain damage owing to excitotoxicity via the glutamate receptors. Metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) is one of the glutamate receptors and represents a promising target for studying neuroprotective agents of potential application in neurodegenerative diseases. Pu-erh tea, a fermented tea, mainly produced in Yunnan province, China, has beneficial effects, including the accommodation of the CNS. In this study, pu-erh tea markedly decreased the transcription and translation of mGluR5 compared to those by black and green teas. Pu-erh tea also inhibited the expression of Homer, one of the synaptic scaffolding proteins binding to mGluR5. Pu-erh tea protected neural cells from necrosis via blocked Ca2+ influx and inhibited protein kinase C (PKC) activation induced by excess glutamate. Pu-erh tea relieved rat epilepsy induced by LiCl-pilocarpine in behavioural and physiological assays. Pu-erh tea also decreased the expression of mGluR5 in the hippocampus. These results show that the inhibition of mGluR5 plays a role in protecting neural cells from glutamate. The results also indicate that pu-erh tea contains biological compounds binding transcription factors and inhibiting the expression of mGluR5 and identify pu-erh tea as a novel natural neuroprotective agent.
Keywords: Glutamate; Neurodegenerative diseases; Pu-erh tea; mGluR5.