Crocetin promotes clearance of amyloid-β by inducing autophagy via the STK11/LKB1-mediated AMPK pathway

Research Publications | 2 Minute Read

Abubakar Wani, Sweilem B. Al Rihani, Ankita Sharma, Brenna Weadick, Rajgopal Govindarajan, Sameer U. Khan, Parduman R. Sharma, Ashish Dogra, Utpal Nandi, Chilakala N Reddy, Sonali S Bharate, Gurdarshan Singh, Sandip B. Bharate, Ram A. Vishwakarma, Amal Kaddoumi & Ajay Kumar

Abstract

Alzheimer disease (AD) is usually accompanied by two prominent pathological features, cerebral accumulation of amyloid-β (Aβ) plaques and presence of MAPT/tau neurofibrillary tangles. Dysregulated clearance of Aβ largely contributes to its accumulation and plaque formation in the brain. Macroautophagy/autophagy is a lysosomal degradative process, which plays an important role in the clearance of Aβ. Failure of autophagic clearance of Aβ is currently acknowledged as a contributing factor to increased accumulation of Aβ in AD brains. In this study, we have identified crocetin, a pharmacologically active constituent from the flower stigmas of Crocus sativus, as a potential inducer of autophagy in AD. In the cellular model, crocetin induced autophagy in N9 microglial and primary neuron cells through STK11/LKB1 (serine/threonine kinase 11)-mediated AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) pathway activation. Autophagy induction by crocetin significantly increased Aβ clearance in N9 cells. Moreover, crocetin crossed the blood-brain barrier and induced autophagy in the brains’ hippocampi of wild-type male C57BL/6 mice. Further studies in transgenic male 5XFAD mice, as a model of AD, revealed that one-month treatment with crocetin significantly reduced Aβ levels and neuroinflammation in the mice brains and improved memory function by inducing autophagy that was mediated by AMPK pathway activation. Our findings support further development of crocetin as a pharmacological inducer of autophagy to prevent, slow down progression, and/or treat AD.

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