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. 2016 Dec;38(5-6):393-404.
doi: 10.1007/s11357-016-9945-7. Epub 2016 Aug 30.

Tart Cherry Supplementation Improves Working Memory, Hippocampal Inflammation, and Autophagy in Aged Rats

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Free PMC article

Tart Cherry Supplementation Improves Working Memory, Hippocampal Inflammation, and Autophagy in Aged Rats

Nopporn Thangthaeng et al. Age (Dordr). .
Free PMC article

Abstract

High consumption of fruits and vegetables has been associated with reduced risk of debilitating diseases and improved cognition in aged populations. These beneficial effects have been attributed to the phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables, which have previously been shown to be anti-inflammatory and modulate autophagy. Tart cherries contain a variety of potentially beneficial phytochemicals; however, little research has been done to investigate the effects of tart cherry on the aging brain. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine if tart cherry supplementation can improve cognitive and motor function of aged rats via modulation of inflammation and autophagy in the brain. Thirty 19-month-old male Fischer 344 rats were weight-matched and assigned to receive either a control diet or a diet supplemented with 2 % Montmorency tart cherry. After 6 weeks on the diet, rats were given a battery of behavioral tests to assess for strength, stamina, balance, and coordination, as well as learning and working memory. Although no significant effects were observed on tests of motor performance, tart cherry improved working memory of aged rats. Following behavioral testing, the hippocampus was collected for western/densitometric analysis of inflammatory (GFAP, NOX-2, and COX-2) and autophagy (phosphorylated mTOR, Beclin 1, and p62/SQSTM) markers. Tart cherry supplementation significantly reduced inflammatory markers and improved autophagy function. Daily consumption of tart cherry reduced age-associated inflammation and promoted protein/cellular homeostasis in the hippocampus, along with improvements in working memory. Therefore, addition of tart cherry to the diet may promote healthy aging and/or delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases.

Keywords: Aging; Autophagy; Cherry; Inflammation; Memory; Montmorency tart cherries.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Figures

Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Supplementation with tart cherry triggered transient increases in food consumption without affecting body weight. The results shown represent food intakes (a, grams/day; means ± SEM; n = 12/group) and body weight (b, grams; means ± SEM; n = 12/group) of rats over the course of the study for the control (open circles) and 2 % tart cherry-supplemented group (filled circles) measured bi-weekly. INT represents the body weight prior to initiation of diet. Asterisk indicates a statistically significant difference between the groups (p < 0.05)
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Tart cherry supplementation improved spatial working memory. Performance of control (open circles) and 2 % tart cherry-supplemented group (filled circles) in a working memory version of the Morris water maze (wMWM), as assessed by latency (a, c) and path length (b, d) for trial 1 (solid line) and trial 2 (dashed line) during the four consecutive days of testing, and the averages between all test days (trial 1, open bar, and trial 2, hatched bar). Results represented as mean ± SEM; n = 12/group. Asterisk indicates statistically significant differences between trial 1 and trial 2 (p < 0.05)
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
Motor performance was not affected by supplementation with tart cherry. Latency to fall (seconds, means ± SEM; n = 12/group) from inclined screen (a), rotarod (b), wire suspension (c), small plank (d), medium plank (e), and large plank (f) for the control (opened bar) and 2 % tart cherry-supplemented group (hatched bar)
Fig. 4
Fig. 4
Tart cherry consumption reduced inflammation in the hippocampus. The results shown represent western blot (top) of inflammatory markers (glial fibrillary acidic protein [GFAP], NADPH oxidase-2 [NOX-2], and cyclooxygenase-2 [COX-2]) in the hippocampus of control (opened bar) and 2 % tart cherry-supplemented group (hatched bar), and densitometry analysis (bottom) of the immunoreactive bands normalized to β-actin, with results represented as mean ± SEM; n = 7/group. Asterisk indicates statistically significant difference between the groups (p < 0.05). Double asterisk indicates significant difference between the groups (p < 0.01)
Fig. 5
Fig. 5
Tart cherry intake promoted autophagy in the hippocampus of aged rats. The results shown represent western blot (top) of autophagy markers (phosphorylated mTOR [pmTOR], Beclin 1, and p62/sequestosome 1 [p62]) in the hippocampus of control (opened bar) and 2 % tart cherry-supplemented group (hatched bar), and densitometry analysis (bottom) of the immunoreactive bands normalized to β-actin, with results represented as mean ± SEM; n = 7/group. Asterisk indicates statistically significant difference between the groups (p < 0.05)

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