Epimedium flavonoids protect neurons and synapses in the brain via activating NRG1/ErbB4 and BDNF/Fyn signaling pathways in a chronic cerebral hypoperfusion rat model.Brain Res Bull. 2020 Sep; 162:132-140.BR
Cerebral hypoperfusion is a common feature of cerebral small vascular disease (CSVD), which has been considered as one of the causes of cognitive decline in recent years. Epimedium flavonoids (EF) are the main ingredients extracted from Epimedium. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of EF on cognitive impairment, and the underlying mechanisms in rats with permanent occlusion of the bilateral common carotid artery (2VO). EF (50, 100, and 200 mg/kg) was intragastrically administered for 12 weeks starting 2 weeks after 2VO surgery. The results showed that EF treatment improved learning and memory impairment in 2VO rats evaluated by novel object recognition and Y-maze tests. NeuN immunohistochemical staining indicated that EF alleviated neuronal loss in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex of 2VO rats. MAP-2 immunofluorescence staining and western blotting showed that EF protected neuronal dendrites and increased the expression of cytoskeleton proteins MAP-2 and NF200 in the hippocampus of 2VO rats. Moreover, EF protected the synapse ultrastructure detected by transmission electron microscopy, and increased the expression of synaptic plasticity-related proteins, including synaptophysin, synaptotagmin-I, synapsin I, PSD-95, p-NMDA2B, and p-CaMKII-α in the hippocampus of 2VO rats. In addition, EF increased the expression of neuregulin-1 (NRG-1), p-ErbB4, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), p-Fyn, PI3K, p-Akt, and p-CREB in the hippocampus of 2VO rats. These results suggest that EF may protect neurons and synapses by activating the NRG1/ErbB4, BDNF/Fyn, and P13 K/Akt/CREB pathways in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex, thus improving cognitive impairment induced by chronic cerebral hypoperfusion. EF may be a potential candidate drug for chronic cerebral hypoperfusion and CSVD therapy.