The protective effects of icariin against the homocysteine-induced neurotoxicity in the primary embryonic cultures of rat cortical neurons

Xiao Ang Li, Yuen Shan Ho, Lei Chen, W. L.Wendy Hsiao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Icariin, an ingredient in the medicinal herb Epimedium brevicornum Maxim (EbM), has been considered as a potential therapeutic agent for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease (AD). Hyperhomocysteinaemia is a risk factor for AD and other associated neurological diseases. In this study we aim to investigate whether icariin can reverse homocysteine (Hcy)-induced neurotoxicity in primary embryonic cultures of rat cortical neurons. Our findings demonstrated that icariin might be able restore the cytoskeleton network damaged by Hcy through the modulation of acetyl-α-tubulin, tyrosinated-α-tubulin, and phosphorylation of the tubulin-binding protein Tau. In addition, icariin downregulated p-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) which is a kinase targeting tau protein. Furthermore, icariin effectively restored the neuroprotective protein p-Akt that was downregulated by Hcy. We also applied RT2Profiler PCR Arrays focused on genes related to AD and neurotoxicity to examine genes differentially altered by Hcy or icariin. Among the altered genes from the arrays, ADAM9 was downregulated 15 folds in cells treated with Hcy, but markedly restored by icariin. ADAM family, encoded α-secreatase, plays a protective role in AD. Overall, our findings demonstrated that icariin exhibits a strong neuroprotective function and have potential for future development for drug treating neurological disorders, such as AD.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1557
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • Homocysteine
  • Icariin
  • Neuroprotection
  • RT Profiler PCR array 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry

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