Memory-enhancing agents have long been required for various reasons such as for obtaining a good score in a test in the young and for retaining memory in the aged. Although many studies have found that several natural products may be good candidates for memory enhancement, there is still a need for better agents. The present study investigated whether rubrofusarin, an active ingredient in Cassiae semen, enhances learning and memory in normal mice. Passive avoidance and Morris water maze tests were performed to determine the memory-enhancing ability of rubrofusarin. To investigate synaptic function, hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP) was measured. Western blotting was performed to determine protein levels. To investigate neurite outgrowth, DCX immunohistochemistry and cell culture were utilised. Rubrofusarin (1, 3, 10, 30 mg/kg) enhanced memory in passive avoidance and Morris water maze tests. Moreover, rubrofusarin ameliorated scopolamine-induced memory impairment. In the rubrofusarin-treated group, high-frequency stimulation induced higher LTP in the hippocampal Schaffer-collateral pathway compared to the control group. The rubrofusarin-treated group showed a higher number of DCX-positive immature neurons with an increase in the length of dendrites compared to the control group in the hippocampal dentate gyrus region. In vitro experiments showed that rubrofusarin facilitated neurite outgrowth in neuro2a cells through extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK). Finally, we found that extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) is required for rubrofusarin-induced enhancement of neurite outgrowth, learning and memory. These results demonstrate that rubrofusarin enhances learning and memory and neurite outgrowth, and these might need activation of ERK pathway.
- Extracellular signal-regulated kinase
- Learning and memory
- Long-term potentiation