Thymoquinone administration ameliorates Alzheimer's disease-like phenotype by promoting cell survival in the hippocampus of amyloid beta 1-42 infused rat model

Phytomedicine. 2020 Dec;79:153324. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2020.153324. Epub 2020 Sep 1.


Background: Thymoquinone (TQ), a biologically active ingredient of Nigella sativa, has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative and neuroprotective properties. Therefore, it could be a good candidate in the recovery of Alzheimer`s disease (AD) pathology rather than current symptomatic reliefs.

Purpose: In the present study, we examined the molecular healing effects of TQ in amyloid beta 1-42 (Aβ1-42) peptide-infused AD rat hippocampus.

Study design: A micro-osmotic pump containing aggregated Aβ1-42 was cannulated into the hippocampus of adult female rats. After two weeks infusion, the dose of TQ (10 mg/kg or 20 mg/kg) was determined according to the HPLC results of cerebrospinal fluid and TQ was given to rats intragastrically for 15 days.

Methods: The memory performance of rats was determined by Morris water maze test. Afterwards, the acetylcholinesterase (AChE) level were measured by ELISA. Histopathological examinations of hippocampal tissue were performed for cell survival by Nissl staining, for detection of amyloid plaque deposits by Congo red staining and for determination of degenerating neurons by Fluoro Jade C staining. MicroRNA/mRNA levels and protein expressions of AD-related genes and proteins were analyzed by Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction and Western Blotting, respectively.

Results: Administration of TQ enhanced the memory performance of Aβ1-42 infused rats and it also ameliorated the neuronal loss in the cornu ammonis (CA1), but not in the dentate gyrus (DG). In addition, TQ treatment decreased the fibril deposition whose accumulation was significantly higher in the Aβ1-42-infused animals compared to that of the control group. The expression profiles of mir29c and Bax which significantly upregulated in the Aβ1-42-infused animals were attenuated by TQ. Furthermore, administration of TQ decreased the expressions of Aβ, phosphorylated-tau, and BACE-1 proteins. There was no significant therapeutic effect of TQ on the AKT/GSK3β or MAPK signaling pathways which were affected due to Aβ1-42 infusion.

Conclusion: TQ has the capacity to recover the neuropathology by removing Aβ plaques and by restoring neuron viability. All might have established the molecular basement of the consolidation in the memory observed by means of TQ treatment.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Amyloid beta((1–42)); Hippocampus; Rat; Thymoquinone.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Benzoquinones / pharmacology*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / drug effects*
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / drug effects
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Peptide Fragments / pharmacology
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Benzoquinones
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Peptide Fragments
  • amyloid beta-protein (1-42)
  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • thymoquinone