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Journal: Biomolecules & therapeutics


Oxidative stress activates several intracellular signaling cascades that may have deleterious effects on neuronal cell survival. Thus, controlling oxidative stress has been suggested as an important strategy for prevention and/or treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. In this study, we found that ginsenoside Rh1 inhibited hydrogen peroxide-induced reactive oxygen species generation and subsequent cell death in rat primary astrocytes. Rh1 increased the expression of phase II antioxidant enzymes, such as heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1, superoxide dismutase-2, and catalase, that are under the control of Nrf2/ARE signaling pathways. Further mechanistic studies showed that Rh1 increased the nuclear translocation and DNA binding of Nrf2 and c-Jun to the antioxidant response element (ARE), and increased the ARE-mediated transcription activities in rat primary astrocytes. Analysis of signaling pathways revealed that MAP kinases are important in HO-1 expression, and act by modulating ARE-mediated transcriptional activity. Therefore, the upregulation of antioxidant enzymes by Rh1 may provide preventive therapeutic potential for various neurodegenerative diseases that are associated with oxidative stress.

Concepts: Superoxide dismutase, Adenosine triphosphate, DNA, Bacteria, Transcription, Gene, Signal transduction, Enzyme


The emergence and use of synthetic cannabinoids have greatly increased in recent years. These substances are easily dispensed over the internet and on the streets. Some synthetic cannabinoids were shown to have abuse liability and were subsequently regulated by authorities. However, there are compounds that are still not regulated probably due to the lack of abuse liability studies. In the present study, we assessed the abuse liability of three synthetic cannabinoids, namely JWH-030, JWH-175, and JWH-176. The abuse liability of these drugs was evaluated in two of the most widely used animal models for assessing the abuse potential of drugs, the conditioned place preference (CPP) and self-administration (SA) test. In addition, the open-field test was utilized to assess the effects of repeated (7 days) treatment and abrupt cessation of these drugs on the psychomotor activity of animals. Results showed that JWH-175 (0.5 mg/kg), but not JWH-030 or JWH-176 at any dose, significantly decreased the locomotor activity of mice. This alteration in locomotor activity was only evident during acute exposure to the drug and was not observed during repeated treatment and abstinence. Similarly, only JWH-175 (0.1 mg/kg) produced significant CPP in rats. On the other hand, none of the drugs tested was self-administered by rats. Taken together, the present results indicate that JWH-175, but not JWH-030 and JWH-176, may have abuse potential. More importantly, our findings indicate the complex psychopharmacological effects of synthetic cannabinoids and the need to closely monitor the production, dispensation, and use of these substances.

Concepts: Animal testing, Drug addiction, Addiction, Pharmacology, Assessment, HU-210, Recreational drug use, Cannabinoid


Synthetic cannabinoids JWH-018 and JWH-250 in ‘herbal incense’ also called ‘spice’ were first introduced in many countries. Numerous synthetic cannabinoids with similar chemical structures emerged simultaneously and suddenly. Currently there are not sufficient data on their adverse effects including neurotoxicity. There are only anecdotal reports that suggest their toxicity. In the present study, we evaluated the neurotoxicity of two synthetic cannabinoids (JWH-081 and JWH-210) through observation of various behavioral changes and analysis of histopathological changes using experimental mice with various doses (0.1, 1, 5 mg/kg). In functional observation battery (FOB) test, animals treated with 5 mg/kg of JWH-081 or JWH-210 showed traction and tremor. Their locomotor activities and rotarod retention time were significantly (p<0.05) decreased. However, no significant change was observed in learning or memory function. In histopathological analysis, neural cells of the animals treated with the high dose (5 mg/kg) of JWH-081 or JWH-210 showed distorted nuclei and nucleus membranes in the core shell of nucleus accumbens, suggesting neurotoxicity. Our results suggest that JWH-081 and JWH-210 may be neurotoxic substances through changing neuronal cell damages, especially in the core shell part of nucleus accumbens. To confirm our findings, further studies are needed in the future.

Concepts: Neurotoxicity, Future, Toxicity, Cell nucleus, Change, Nervous system, Dopamine, Neuron


Glial cells are receiving much attention since they have been recognized as important regulators of many aspects of brain function and disease. Recent evidence has revealed that two different glial cells, astrocytes and microglia, control synapse elimination under normal and pathological conditions via phagocytosis. Astrocytes use the MEGF10 and MERTK phagocytic pathways, and microglia use the classical complement pathway to recognize and eliminate unwanted synapses. Notably, glial phagocytosis also contributes to the clearance of disease-specific protein aggregates, such as β-amyloid, huntingtin, and α-synuclein. Here we reivew recent findings showing that glial cells are active regulators in brain functions through phagocytosis and that changes in glial phagocytosis contribute to the pathogenesis of various neurodegenerative diseases. A better understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of glial phagocytosis in healthy and diseased brains will greatly improve our current approach in treating these diseases.

Concepts: Glial cell, Cancer, Neurobiology, Disease, Immune system, Epidemiology, Medicine, Neuron


Vasicinone, a quinazoline alkaloid from Adhatoda vasica Nees. is well known for its bronchodilator activity. However its anti-proliferative activities is yet to be elucidated. Here-in we investigated the anti-proliferative effect of vasicinone and its underlying mechanism against A549 lung carcinoma cells. The A549 cells upon treatment with various doses of vasicinone (10, 30, 50, 70 μM) for 72 h showed significant decrease in cell viability. Vasicinone treatment also showed DNA fragmentation, LDH leakage, and disruption of mitochondrial potential, and lower wound healing ability in A549 cells. The Annexin V/PI staining showed disrupted plasma membrane integrity and permeability of PI in treated cells. Moreover vasicinone treatment also lead to down regulation of Bcl-2, Fas death receptor and up regulation of PARP, BAD and cytochrome c, suggesting the anti-proliferative nature of vasicinone which mediated apoptosis through both Fas death receptors as well as Bcl-2 regulated signaling. Furthermore, our preliminary studies with vasicinone treatment also showed to lower the ROS levels in A549 cells and have potential free radical scavenging (DPPH, Hydroxyl) activity and ferric reducing power in cell free systems. Thus combining all, vasicinone may be used to develop a new therapeutic agent against oxidative stress induced lung cancer.

Concepts: Protein, Radical, Apoptosis, Lung cancer, Squamous cell carcinoma, Fas receptor, Cancer, DNA


Cosmetics are primarily applied to the skin; therefore, the association of cosmetic dyes with skin diseases or inflammation is a topic of great interest. Thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) is an interleukin 7-like cytokine that activates dendritic cells to promote Th2 inflammatory immune responses. TSLP is highly expressed in keratinocytes under inflammatory conditions, which suggests that it may play a critical role in the development of skin diseases, such as atopic dermatitis. Therefore, we investigated whether cosmetic dyes influenced the production of TSLP by keratinocytes. Phloxine O, also known as D&C Red No.27, is one of the most common red synthetic pigments and is widely used in colored cosmetics. Our results showed that Phloxine O downregulated phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate-induced production of TSLP in a murine keratinocyte cell line (PAM212). Phloxine O also suppressed TSLP expression in KCMH-1 cells, which are mouse keratinocytes that constitutively produce high levels of TSLP. To investigate the in vivo effects of Phloxine O, we induced TSLP expression in mouse ear skin by topically applying MC903, a vitamin D3 analogue that is a well-known inducer of atopic dermatitis-like symptoms. Topical application of Phloxine O prevented MC903-induced TSLP production in mouse ear skin, attenuated the acute dermatitis-like symptoms and decreased serum IgE and histamine levels in mice. Suppression of TSLP expression by Phloxine O correlated with reduced expression of OX40 ligand and Th2 cytokines in mouse ear skin. Our results showed that Phloxine O may be beneficial to prevent dermatitis by suppressing the expression of TSLP and Th2 cytokines in skin.

Concepts: Allergy, Asthma, Suppression of dissent, Suppression, Interleukin, Topical, Inflammation, Immune system


Worldwide, caffeine is among the most commonly used stimulatory substances. Unfortunately, significant caffeine consumption is associated with several adverse effects, ranging from sleep disturbances (including insomnia) to cardiovascular problems. This study investigates whether treatment with the Evodia rutaecarpa aqueous extract (ERAE) from berries and its major molecular component, evodiamine, can reduce the adverse caffeine-induced sleep-related and excitation effects. We combined measurements from the pentobarbital-induced sleep test, the open field test, and the locomotor activity test in mice that had been dosed with caffeine. We found that ERAE and evodiamine administration reduced the degree of caffeine-induced sleep disruption during the sleep test. Additionally, we found that evodiamine significantly inhibits caffeine-induced excitation during the open field test, as well as decreasing hyperlocomotion in the locomotor activity test. Additional in vitro experiments showed that caffeine administration decreased the expression of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)A receptor subunits in the mouse hypothalamus. However, evodiamine treatment significantly reversed this expression reduction. Taken together, our results demonstrate that ERAE and its major compound, evodiamine, provide an excellent candidate for the treatment or prevention of caffeine-induced sleep disturbances and excitatory states, and that the mechanism of these beneficial effects acts, at least in part, through the GABAA-ergic system.

Concepts: Rodent, Rat, Adverse drug reaction, Caffeine, Circadian rhythm, Insomnia, Sleep, Mouse


Triclosan (TCS) and bisphenol A (BPA) are endocrine-disrupting chemicals that interfere with the hormone or endocrine system and may cause cancer. Kaempferol (Kaem) and 3,3'-diindolylmethane (DIM) are phytoestrogens that play chemopreventive roles in the inhibition of carcinogenesis and cancer progression. In this study, the influence of TCS, BPA, Kaem, and DIM on proliferation and apoptotic abilities of VM7Luc4E2 breast cancer cells were examined. MTT assay revealed that TCS (0.1-10 μM), BPA (0.1-10 μM) and E2 (0.01-0.0001 μM) induced significant cell proliferation of VM7Luc4E2 cells, which was restored to the control (0.1% DMSO) by co-treatment with Kaem (30 μM) or DIM (15 μM). Reactive oxygen species (ROS) production assays showed that TCS and BPA inhibited ROS production of VM7Luc4E2 cells similar to E2, but that co-treatment with Kaem or DIM on VM-7Luc4E2 cells induced increased ROS production. Based on these results, the effects of TCS, BPA, Kaem, and DIM on protein expression of apoptosis and ROS production-related markers such as Bax and Bcl-xl, as well as endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress-related markers such as eIF2α and CHOP were investigated by Western blot assay. The results revealed that TCS, and BPA induced anti-apoptosis by reducing ROS production and ER stress. However, Kaem and DIM effectively inhibited TCS and BPA-induced anti-apoptotic processes in VM7Luc4E2 cells. Overall, TCS and BPA were revealed to be distinct xenoestrogens that enhanced proliferation and anti-apoptosis, while Kaem and DIM were identified as natural chemopreventive compounds that effectively inhibited breast cancer cell proliferation and increased anti-apoptosis induced by TCS and BPA.

Concepts: Cell division, Endoplasmic reticulum, Metastasis, Endocrine disruptor, Chemotherapy, Apoptosis, Cancer, Breast cancer


Extracellular interleukin 1 alpha (IL-1α) released from keratinocytes is one of the endpoints for in vitro assessments of skin irritancy. Although cells dying via primary skin irritation undergo apoptosis as well as necrosis, IL-1α is not released in apoptotic cells. On the other hand, active secretion has been identified in interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra), which was discovered to be a common, upregulated, differentially-expressed gene in a microarray analysis performed with keratinocytes treated using cytotoxic doses of chemicals. This study examined whether and how IL-1ra, particularly extracellularly released IL-1ra, was involved in chemically-induced keratinocyte cytotoxicity and skin irritation. Primary cultured normal adult skin keratinocytes were treated with cytotoxic doses of chemicals (hydroquinone, retinoic acid, sodium lauryl sulfate, or urshiol) with or without recombinant IL-1ra treatment. Mouse skin was administered irritant concentrations of hydroquinone or retinoic acid. IL-1ra (mRNA and/or intracellular/extracellularly released protein) levels increased in the chemically treated cultured keratinocytes with IL-1α and IL-1β mRNAs and in the chemically exposed epidermis of the mouse skin. Recombinant IL-1ra treatment significantly reduced the chemically-induced apoptotic death and intracellular/extracellularly released IL-1α and IL-1β in keratinocytes. Collectively, extracellular IL-1ra released from keratinocytes could be a compensatory mechanism to reduce the chemically-induced keratinocyte apoptosis by antagonism to IL-1α and IL-1β, suggesting potential applications to predict skin irritation.

Concepts: DNA, Epidermis, Apoptosis, Interleukin-1 receptor, Protein, Interleukin 1 receptor antagonist, Inflammation, Immune system


Defensins are antimicrobial peptides that participate in the innate immunity of hosts. Humans constitutively and/or inducibly express α- and β-defensins, which are known for their antiviral and antibacterial activities. This review describes the application of human defensins. We discuss the extant experimental results, limited though they are, to consider the potential applicability of human defensins as antiviral agents. Given their antiviral effects, we propose that basic research be conducted on human defensins that focuses on RNA viruses, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), influenza A virus (IAV), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and dengue virus (DENV), which are considered serious human pathogens but have posed huge challenges for vaccine development for different reasons. Concerning the prophylactic and therapeutic applications of defensins, we then discuss the applicability of human defensins as antivirals that has been demonstrated in reports using animal models. Finally, we discuss the potential adjuvant-like activity of human defensins and propose an exploration of the ‘defensin vaccine’ concept to prime the body with a controlled supply of human defensins. In sum, we suggest a conceptual framework to achieve the practical application of human defensins to combat viral infections.

Concepts: Antibiotic, Fever, Genome, Antiviral drug, Microbiology, Influenza, Virus, Immune system