Studies have shown that the natural flavonoid luteolin has neurotrophic activity. In this study, we investigated the effect of luteolin in a mouse model of Down syndrome. Ts65Dn mice, which are frequently used as a model of Down syndrome, were intraperitoneally injected with 10 mg/kg luteolin for 4 consecutive weeks starting at 12 weeks of age. The Morris water maze test was used to evaluate learning and memory abilities, and the novel object recognition test was used to assess recognition memory. Immunohistochemistry was performed for the neural stem cell marker nestin, the astrocyte marker glial fibrillary acidic protein, the immature neuron marker DCX, the mature neuron marker NeuN, and the cell proliferation marker Ki67 in the hippocampal dentate gyrus. Nissl staining was used to observe changes in morphology and to quantify cells in the dentate gyrus. Western blot assay was used to analyze the protein levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and phospho-extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (p-ERK1/2) in the hippocampus. Luteolin improved learning and memory abilities as well as novel object recognition ability, and enhanced the proliferation of neurons in the hippocampal dentate gyrus. Furthermore, luteolin increased expression of nestin and glial fibrillary acidic protein, increased the number of DCX+ neurons in the granular layer and NeuN+ neurons in the subgranular region of the dentate gyrus, and increased the protein levels of BDNF and p-ERK1/2 in the hippocampus. Our findings show that luteolin improves behavioral performance and promotes hippocampal neurogenesis in Ts65Dn mice. Moreover, these effects might be associated with the activation of the BDNF/ERK1/2 pathway.
Keywords: BDNF; Down syndrome; ERK; GFAP; NeuN; Ts65Dn mice; hippocampus; luteolin; nerve regeneration; nestin; neural regeneration; neurogenesis.