Withania somnifera (WS; commonly known as Ashwagandha or Indian ginseng) is a medicinal plant whose extracts have been in use for centuries in various regions of the world as a rejuvenator. There is now a growing body of evidence documenting neuroprotective functions of the plant extracts or its purified compounds in several models of neurodegenerative diseases including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Based on the extract's beneficial effect in a mouse model of ALS with TDP-43 proteinopathy, the current study was designed to test its efficacy in another model of familial ALS. Our results show that administration of WS extracts by gavage to mice expressing G93A mutant form of superoxide dismutase (SOD1) resulted in increased longevity, improved motor performance and increased number of motor neurons in lumbar spinal cord. The WS treatment caused substantial reduction in levels of misfolded SOD1whereas it enhanced expression of cellular chaperons in spinal cord of SOD1G93A mice. WS markedly reduced glial activation and prevented phosphorylation of nuclear factor kappaB (NF-κB). The overall immunomodulatory effect of WS was further evidenced by changes in expression of multiple cytokines/chemokines. WS also served as an autophagy inducer which may be beneficial at early stages of the disease. These results suggest that WS extracts might constitute promising therapeutics for treatment of ALS with involvement of misfolded SOD1.
Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Autophagy; SOD1; Withania somnifera.
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