The herbal compound geniposide rescues formaldehyde-induced apoptosis in N2a neuroblastoma cells

Jin Yan Chen, Meng Ru Sun, Xing Hua Wang, Jing Lu, Yan Wei, Yan Tan, Ying Liu, Jürgen Götz, Rong Qiao He, Qian Hua

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35 Citations (Scopus)


The herbal medicine Tong Luo Jiu Nao (TLJN) contains geniposide (GP) and ginsenoside Rg1 at a molar ratio of 10:1. Rg1 is the major component of another herbal medicine, panax notoginseng saponin (PNS). TLJN has been shown to strengthen brain function in humans, and in animals it improves learning and memory. We have previously shown that TLJN reduces amyloidogenic processing in Alzheimer's disease (AD) mouse models. Together this suggests TLJN may be a potential treatment for patients with dementia. Because chronic damage of the central nervous system by formaldehyde (FA) has been presented as a risk factor for age-associated cognitive dysfunction, in the present study we investigated the protective effect of both TLJN and GP in neuron-like cells exposed to FA. FA-exposed murine N2a neuroblastoma cells were incubated with TLJN, its main ingredient GP, as well as PNS, to measure cell viability and morphology, the rate of apoptosis and expression of genes encoding Akt, FOXO3, Bcl2 and p53. The CCK-8 assay, cytoskeletal staining and flow cytometry were used to test cell viability, morphology and apoptosis, respectively. Fluorescent quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) was used to monitor changes in gene expression, and HPLC to determine the rate of FA clearance. Treatment of N2a cells with 0.09 mmol L-1 FA for 24 h significantly reduced cell viability, changed cell morphology and promoted apoptosis. Both TLJN and GP conferred neuroprotection to FA-treated N2a cells, whereas PNS, which had to be used at lower concentrations because of its toxicity, did not. Our data demonstrate that TLJN can rescue neuronal damage caused by FA and that its main ingredient, GP, has a major role in this efficacy. This presents purified GP as a drug or lead compound for the treatment of AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)412-421
Number of pages10
JournalScience China Life Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • apoptosis
  • formaldehyde
  • geniposide
  • neuroprotection
  • panax notoginseng saponin
  • Tong Luo Jiu Nao

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