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Mechanism of Action of Lepidium meyenii (Maca): An Explanation for Its Neuroprotective Activity

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The pentane extract of the Peruvian plant Lepidium meyenii (Maca) has been shown to possess neuroprotective activity in vitro (in crayfish neurons) and in vivo (in rats subjected to focal ischemic stroke). These results suggested a potential application of the lipophilic compounds from Maca as neuroprotectants. The current study was designed to examine the neuroprotectant activity in rat neuroblastoma cells and the involvement of the endocannabinoid system in the mechanism of action of the Maca pentane extract. Rat neuroblastoma cells were pretreated with vehicle or O-2050 (a high affinity cannabinoid CB1 receptor silent antagonist) and exposed one hour later to either: Maca pentane extract or anandamide (an endogenous cannabinoid). After 1 hour incubation, cells were exposed to oxidative damage with H2O2. Cell viability was determined 24 hours later by the trypan blue exclusion cell count method and the spectrophotometric dimethylthiazolylcarboxymethoxyphenyl-sulfophenyl-tetrazolium (MTS) method. The neuroprotectant activity of the pentane extract was confirmed. Compound O-2050 alone produced neurotoxic effects, and significantly (p < 0.05) antagonized the neuroprotectant activity of the pentane extract when used in combination. The pentane extract was tested in an in vitro model using human recombinant fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), the enzyme responsible for endocannabinoid degradation. The Maca pentane extract demonstrated a significant concentration-dependent FAAH inhibitory activity (p < 0.05) at concentrations between 0.1 to 30 μg/mL. These results suggest a potential application of Maca or its constituents as FAAH inhibitors. Maca lipophilic constituents may influence neurotransmission in the central nervous system and may act through the endocannabinoid system to protect neurons against excitotoxic damage.
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Keywords: ENDOCANNABINOIDS; FAAH; LEPIDIUM MEYENII; MACA; MACAMIDES

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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  • This journal aims to focus specifically on the emerging new aspects of neuroprotection and neuroregeneration in the widest sense of neuroscience. American Journal of Neuroprotection and Neuroregeneration (AJNN) deals with research on all the aspects of the central nervous system: relevant CNS diseases, their processes and their modification with drugs that may have any influence and significance in experimental and clinical conditions.
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