Aging and lifestyle factors, including high-sugar and high-fat diets, promote a systemic metabolic imbalance that promotes neurodegeneration. Hericium erinaceus has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. Recently, its functional activities, such as antimetabolic dysfunction, antineuroinflammatory activities, and stimulation of nerve growth factor (NGF) synthesis, have been revealed. This study demonstrated that Hericium erinaceus mycelium (HEM) and an isolated diterpenoid derivative, erinacine A (EA), may reverse spatial learning disabilities in aging mice (15 months old) fed with a high-fat and high-sucrose diet (HFSD). Aging mice were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups: (1) a chow diet (control), (2) an HFSD, and an HFSD supplemented with either (3) HEM or (4) EA for 18 weeks. The Morris water maze (MWM) and Y-maze were used for behavioral assessments. Both HEM- and EA-treated mice had shorter mean daily escape latencies than HFSD-treated mice in the MWM. In addition, HEM-treated mice had a slightly increased exploratory time and frequency in the novel arm in the Y-maze. Quantitative PCR revealed that both HEM- and EA-treated mice exhibited reduced messenger RNA (mRNA) expression of tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-1β, and HEM-treated mice exhibited increased mRNA expression of NGF and NeuN in the hippocampus. Moreover, HEM and EA also decreased body weight, abdominal fat, plasma glucose, serum and liver total cholesterol, and liver triacylglycerol. Thus, HEM may be a potential health-promoting supplement for minimizing the progression of aging and obesity-induced neurodegeneration by reducing metabolic abnormalities and neuroinflammatory cytokines and increasing neurogenesis factors.
Keywords: Hericium erinaceus; cognitive impairment; erinacine A; metabolic dysfunction; nerve growth factor; neuroinflammation.