Scutellarin, a flavonoid extracted from an herbal medication (Erigeron breviscapus Hand-Mazz), has been shown to protect neurons against damage and to promote neurogenesis, and thus has therapeutic potential in the treatment of a variety of neurodegenerative diseases. Since neural stem cells (NSCs) could differentiate into myelin-producing oligodendrocytes, we speculate that scutellarin could also be used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS). In the current study, we examined potential effects of scutellarin using a mouse model of MS. Briefly, adult C57BL/6 mice exposed to cuprizone (8 mg/day through diet, for 6 consecutive weeks) randomly received scutellarin (50 mg/kg/day) or vehicle for 10 consecutive days. In the scutellarin-treated group, rotarod testing at the end of the treatment showed significant improvement of motor function (increased time to fall); myelin basic protein (MBP) staining of the corpus callosum revealed decreased demyelination; TUNEL staining followed by Nestin or Sox2 staining revealed increased number of NSCs and decreased rate of NSC apoptosis in the subventricular zone (SVZ) of the lateral ventricles (LV). In a series of experiments using cultured NSCs subjected to cuprizone injury, we confirmed the protective effects of scutellarin. At 30 muM, scutellarin increased the commitment of NSCs to the oligodendrocyte and neuronal lineages, as evidenced by NG2 chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (NG2) and doublecortin (DCX) staining. Differentiation into astrocytes (as revealed by glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) staining) was decreased. Maturation of the NSCs committed to the oligodendrocyte lineage, as evidenced by oligodendrocyte marker O4 antibody (O4) staining and MBP staining, was also promoted by scutellarin. Further analysis revealed that scutellarin might suppress the phosphorylation of p38 in cuprizone-induced NSCs. In summary, scutellarin could alleviate motor deficits in a mouse model for MS, possibly by inhibiting NSC apoptosis and promoting differentiation of NSCs to myelin-producing oligodendrocytes.
- Neural stem cells