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Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity
Volume 2016, Article ID 4856761, 10 pages
Research Article

Astragalus Polysaccharide Suppresses 6-Hydroxydopamine-Induced Neurotoxicity in Caenorhabditis elegans

1Center for Bioresources & Drug Discovery and School of Biosciences & Biopharmaceutics, Guangdong Pharmaceutical University, Guangzhou 510006, China
2Research & Development Center, Infinitus (China) Company Ltd., Guangzhou 510665, China
3Guangdong Province Key Laboratory for Biotechnology Drug Candidates, Guangdong Pharmaceutical University, Guangzhou 510006, China

Received 17 June 2016; Revised 19 September 2016; Accepted 13 October 2016

Academic Editor: Renata Szymanska

Copyright © 2016 Haifeng Li 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.


Astragalus membranaceus is a medicinal plant traditionally used in China for a variety of conditions, including inflammatory and neural diseases. Astragalus polysaccharides are shown to reduce the adverse effect of levodopa which is used to treat Parkinson’s disease (PD). However, the neuroprotective effect of Astragalus polysaccharides per se in PD is lacking. Using Caenorhabditis elegans models, we investigated the protective effect of astragalan, an acidic polysaccharide isolated from A. membranaceus, against the neurotoxicity of 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA), a neurotoxin that can induce parkinsonism. We show that 6-OHDA is able to degenerate dopaminergic neurons and lead to the deficiency of food-sensing behavior and a shorter lifespan in C. elegans. Interestingly, these degenerative symptoms can be attenuated by astragalan treatment. Astragalan is also shown to alleviate oxidative stress through reducing reactive oxygen species level and malondialdehyde content and increasing superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase activities and reduce the expression of proapoptotic gene egl-1 in 6-OHDA-intoxicated nematodes. Further studies reveal that astragalan is capable of elevating the decreased acetylcholinesterase activity induced by 6-OHDA. Together, our results demonstrate that the protective effect of astragalan against 6-OHDA neurotoxicity is likely due to the alleviation of oxidative stress and regulation of apoptosis pathway and cholinergic system and thus provide an important insight into the therapeutic potential of Astragalus polysaccharide in neurodegeneration.