Crocin is a pharmacologically active component of Crocus sativus L. (saffron) that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine. In a previous study, we demonstrated that crocin inhibits apoptosis in PC-12 cells by affecting the function of tumor necrosis factor-α. In this study, we found that depriving cultured PC-12 cells of serum/glucose causes a rapid increase in cellular ceramide levels, followed by an increase in the phosphorylation of c-jun kinase (JNK). The accumulation of ceramide was found to depend on the activation of magnesium-dependent neutral sphingomyelinase (N-SMase), but not on de novo synthesis. The serum/glucose-deprived PC-12 cells also decreased the cellular levels of glutathione (GSH), which is the potent inhibitor of N-SMase. Treating the PC-12 cells with crocin prevented N-SMase activation, ceramide production, and JNK phosphorylation. We also found that the chemical can enhance the activities of GSH reductase and γ-glutamylcysteinyl synthase (γ-GCS), contributing to a stable GSH supply that blocks the activation of N-SMase. Thus our data suggest that crocin combats the serum/glucose deprivation-induced ceramide formation in PC-12 cells by increasing GSH levels and prevents the activation of JNK pathway, which is reported to have a role of the signaling cascade downstream ceramide for neuronal cell death.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology