Honokiol (Hon), a polyphenol and main active ingredient from the bark of Magnolia officinalis, has been documented as having multiple pharmacological functions, including neuroprotection. However, the mechanisms underlying its neuroprotective effects are not well-defined. In this study, we reported that Hon attenuates the H2O2- or 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA)-induced apoptosis of PC12 cells by increasing the glutathione level and upregulating a multitude of cytoprotective proteins, including heme oxygenase 1, NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1, thioredoxin 1, and thioredoxin reductase 1. Further studies reveal that Hon promotes transcription factor Nrf2 nuclear translocation and activation. Moreover, the cytoprotection of Hon was antagonized by silence of Nrf2 expression, highlighting the fact that Nrf2 is critically engaged in the cellular functions of Hon. Taken together, our study identified that Hon is an effective agonist of Nrf2 in the neuronal system and displays potent neuroprotection against oxidative stress-mediated PC12 cell damage. These findings indicate that Hon is promising for further development as a therapeutic drug against oxidative stress-related neurodegenerative disorders.
Keywords: Honokiol; Nrf2; antioxidant; neuroprotection; oxidative stress.