Lycopene ameliorates chronic stress-induced hippocampal injury and subsequent learning and memory dysfunction through inhibiting ROS/JNK signaling pathway in rats.
Food Chem Toxicol. 2020 Nov ;145:111688. Epub 2020 Aug 15. PMID: 32810585
The natural carotenoid lycopene (LYC) has strong antioxidant and neuroprotective capacities. This study investigated the effects and mechanisms of LYC on chronic stress-induced hippocampal lesions and learning and memory dysfunction. Rats were administered LYC and/or chronic restraint stress (CRS) for 21 days. Morris water maze results demonstrated that LYC prevented CRS-induced learning and memory dysfunction. Histopathological staining and transmission electron microscopy observation revealed that LYC ameliorated CRS-induced hippocampal microstructural and ultrastructural damage. Furthermore, LYC alleviated CRS-induced oxidative stress by reducing reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and enhancing antioxidant enzyme activities. LYC also improved CRS-induced hippocampal mitochondrial dysfunction by recovering mitochondrial membrane potential, and complex I (NADH dehydrogenase) and II (succinate dehydrogenase) activities. Moreover, LYC reduced CRS-induced apoptosis via the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway, and decreased the number of terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick-end-labeled positive cells. Additionally, western blot analysis demonstrated that LYC inhibited CRS-induced activation of the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) signaling pathway. Correlation analysis indicated that ROS levels, JNK activation, and the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway were positively correlated. Further investigation of the underlying mechanisms revealed that the ROS scavenger N-acetyl-l-cysteine inhibited CRS-induced JNK activation. Furthermore, the JNK inhibitor SP600125 relieved CRS-induced hippocampal mitochondrial dysfunction, apoptosis via the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway, and learning and memory dysfunction. Together, these results suggest that LYC alleviates hippocampal oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and apoptosis by inhibiting the ROS/JNK signaling pathway, thereby improving CRS-induced hippocampal injury and learning and memory dysfunction. This study provides a theoretical basis and new therapeutic strategies for the application of LYC to relieve chronic stress encephalopathy.