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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2012, Article ID 278273, 11 pages
Research Article

Isorhamnetin, A Flavonol Aglycone from Ginkgo biloba L., Induces Neuronal Differentiation of Cultured PC12 Cells: Potentiating the Effect of Nerve Growth Factor

Division of Life Science and Center for Chinese Medicine, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Received 6 March 2012; Accepted 11 April 2012

Academic Editor: Paul Siu-Po Ip

Copyright © 2012 Sherry L. Xu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Flavonoids, a group of compounds mainly derived from vegetables and herbal medicines, share a chemical resemblance to estrogen, and indeed some of which have been used as estrogen substitutes. In searching for possible functions of flavonoids, the neuroprotective effect in brain could lead to novel treatment, or prevention, for neurodegenerative diseases. Here, different subclasses of flavonoids were analyzed for its inductive role in neurite outgrowth of cultured PC12 cells. Amongst the tested flavonoids, a flavonol aglycone, isorhamnetin that was isolated mainly from the leaves of Ginkgo biloba L. showed robust induction in the expression of neurofilament, a protein marker for neurite outgrowth, of cultured PC12 cells. Although isorhamnetin by itself did not show significant inductive effect on neurite outgrowth of cultured PC12 cells, the application of isorhamnetin potentiated the nerve growth factor- (NGF-)induced neurite outgrowth. In parallel, the expression of neurofilaments was markedly increased in the cotreatment of NGF and isorhamnetin in the cultures. The identification of these neurite-promoting flavonoids could be very useful in finding potential drugs, or food supplements, for treating various neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and depression.