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The Kampo medicine Yokukansan (YKS) enhances nerve growth factor (NGF)-induced neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells

Kazuki Terada, Yukari Matsushima, Kazuhisa Matsunaga, Jiro Takata, Yoshiharu Karube, Atsushi Ishige, Koji Chiba


Accumulating evidence indicates that neurotrophic factor-like substances involved in the induction of neurotrophic factor synthesis may aid in the treatment of neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Yokukansan (YKS), a traditional Kampo medicine, has been used for the treatment of anxiety and mood disorders. In the present study, we aimed to identify the signaling pathways associated with YKS-mediated enhancement of nerve growth factor (NGF)-induced neurite extension in rat pheochromocytoma (PC12) cells. Akt and extracellular-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) phosphorylation levels were assessed by western blot analysis, in the presence of YKS and following the treatment with TrkA inhibitor, K252a. YKS treatment (NGF+YKS 0.5 group) enhanced NGF-induced neurite outgrowth and phosphorylation/activation of Akt and ERK1/2 in PC12 cells. Moreover, YKS-induced effects were inhibited by the treatment with the TrkA receptor antagonist K252a (NGF+YKS 0.5+K252a group); no significant difference in neurite outgrowth was observed between K252a-treated (NGF+YKS 0.5+K252a group) and NGF-K252a-treated cells (NGF+K252a group). However, neurite outgrowth in K252a-treated cells (NGF+K252a and NGF+YKS 0.5+K252a group) reached only one-third of the level in NGF-treated cells (NGF group). NGF-mediated Akt phosphorylation increased by YKS was also inhibited by K252a treatment (NGF+YKS 0.5+K252a group), but no significant difference in ERK1/2 phosphorylation was observed between NGF-YKS-K252a- and NGF-treated cells (NGF group). Our results indicate that YKS treatment enhanced NGF-induced neurite outgrowth via induction of Akt and ERK1/2 phosphorylation, following the binding of NGF to the TrkA receptor. These findings may be useful in the development of novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.


NGF; neurite outgrowth; Kampo; Yokukansan; Akt; ERK1/2; PC12 cells; YKS; TrkA inhibitor; nerve growth factor

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