Department of Pharmacology, Xuanwu Hospital of Capital Medical University, Key Laboratory for Neurodegenerative Diseases of Ministry of Education, Beijing 100053, China.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects and pharmacological mechanisms of icariin, which is the main component in the traditional Chinese herb Epimedium, on β-amyloid (Aβ) production in an amyloid precursor protein (APP) transgenic (Tg) mouse model of Alzheimer's disease (AD).
Methods: APPV717I Tg mice were randomly divided into a model group and icariin-treated (30 and 100 μmol/kg per day) groups. Learning-memory abilities were determined by Morris water maze and object recognition tests. Aβ contents were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays and immunohistochemistry. Amyloid plaques were detected by Congo red staining and Bielschowsky silver staining. The levels of expression of APP and β-site APP-cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE-1) were measured by western blotting and immunohistochemistry.
Results: Ten-month-old Tg mice showed obvious learning-memory impairments, and significant increases in Aβ contents, amyloid plaques, and APP and BACE-1 levels in the hippocampus. The intragastric administration of icariin to Tg mice for 6 months (from 4 to 10 months of age) improved the learning-memory abilities and significantly decreased the Aβ contents, amyloid plaques, and APP and BACE-1 levels in the hippocampus.
Conclusion: Icariin reduced the Aβ burden and amyloid plaque deposition in the hippocampus of APP transgenic mice by decreasing the APP and BACE-1 levels. These novel findings suggest that icariin may be a promising treatment in patients with AD.
Keywords: Icariin, Alzheimer's disease, APPV717I transgenic mice, β-amyloid, amyloid plaque, BACE-1, amyloid precursor protein