Neuroprotective properties of the natural vitamin E alpha-tocotrienol

Khanna S, Roy S, Slivka A, Craft TK, Chaki S, Rink C, Notestine MA, DeVries AC, Parinandi NL, Sen CK.

Stroke. 2005 Oct;36(10):2258-64. Epub 2005 Sep 15.

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: The current work is based on our previous finding that in neuronal cells, nmol/L concentrations of alpha-tocotrienol (TCT), but not alpha-tocopherol (TCP), blocked glutamate-induced death by suppressing early activation of c-Src kinase and 12-lipoxygenase.


METHODS: The single neuron microinjection technique was used to compare the neuroprotective effects of TCT with that of the more widely known TCP. Stroke-dependent brain tissue damage was studied in 12-Lox-deficient mice and spontaneously hypertensive rats orally supplemented with TCT.


RESULTS: Subattomole quantity of TCT, but not TCP, protected neurons from glutamate challenge. Pharmacological as well as genetic approaches revealed that 12-Lox is rapidly tyrosine phosphorylated in the glutamate-challenged neuron and that this phosphorylation is catalyzed by c-Src. 12-Lox-deficient mice were more resistant to stroke-induced brain injury than their wild-type controls. Oral supplementation of TCT to spontaneously hypertensive rats led to increased TCT levels in the brain. TCT-supplemented rats showed more protection against stroke-induced injury compared with matched controls. Such protection was associated with lower c-Src activation and 12-Lox phosphorylation at the stroke site.


CONCLUSIONS: The natural vitamin E, TCT, acts on key molecular checkpoints to protect against glutamate- and stroke-induced neurodegeneration.

Tocotrienol: The natural vitamin E to defend the nervous system?

Sen CK, Khanna S, Roy S.

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004 Dec;1031:127-42.

Vitamin E is essential for normal neurological function. It is the major lipid-soluble, chain-breaking antioxidant in the body, protecting the integrity of membranes by inhibiting lipid peroxidation. Mostly on the basis of symptoms of primary vitamin E deficiency, it has been demonstrated that vitamin E has a central role in maintaining neurological structure and function. Orally supplemented vitamin E reaches the cerebrospinal fluid and brain. Vitamin E is a generic term for all tocopherols and their derivatives having the biological activity of RRR-alpha-tocopherol, the naturally occurring stereoisomer compounds with vitamin E activity. In nature, eight substances have been found to have vitamin E activity: alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherol; and alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocotrienol. Often, the term vitamin E is synonymously used with alpha-tocopherol. Tocotrienols, formerly known as zeta, , or eta-tocopherols, are similar to tocopherols except that they have an isoprenoid tail with three unsaturation points instead of a saturated phytyl tail. Although tocopherols are predominantly found in corn, soybean, and olive oils, tocotrienols are particularly rich in palm, rice bran, and barley oils. Tocotrienols possess powerful antioxidant, anticancer, and cholesterol-lowering properties. Recently, we have observed that alpha-tocotrienol is multi-fold more potent than alpha-tocopherol in protecting HT4 and primary neuronal cells against toxicity induced by glutamate as well as by a number of other toxins. At nanomolar concentration, tocotrienol, but not tocopherol, completely protected neurons by an antioxidant-independent mechanism. Our current work identifies two major targets of tocotrienol in the neuron: c-Src kinase and 12-lipoxygenase. Dietary supplementation studies have established that tocotrienol, fed orally, does reach the brain. The current findings point towards tocotrienol as a potent neuroprotective form of natural vitamin E.

Alpha-tocotrienol provides the most potent neuroprotection among vitamin E analogs on cultured striatal neurons

Osakada, F.,Hashino, A.,Kume, T.,Katsuki, H.,Kaneko, S.,Akaike, A.

Neuropharmacology, 2004. 47(6): 904-15.

Oxidative stress and apoptosis play pivotal roles in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases. We investigated the effects of vitamin E analogs on oxidative stress and apoptosis using primary neuronal cultures of rat striatum. A tocotrienol-rich fraction of edible oil derived from palm oil (Tocomin 50%), which contains alpha-tocopherol, and alpha-, gamma- and delta-tocotrienols, significantly inhibited hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)-induced neuronal death. Each of the tocotrienols, purified from Tocomin 50% by high-performance liquid chromatography, significantly attenuated H2O2-induced neurotoxicity, whereas alpha-tocopherol did not. alpha-, gamma- and delta-Tocotrienols also provided significant protection against the cytotoxicity of a superoxide donor, paraquat, and nitric oxide donors, S-nitrosocysteine and 3-morpholinosydnonimine. Moreover, tocotrienols blocked oxidative stress-mediated cell death with apoptotic DNA fragmentation caused by an inhibitor of glutathione synthesis, L-buthionine-[S,R]-sulfoximine. In addition, alpha-tocotrienol, but not gamma- or delta-tocotrienol, prevented oxidative stress-independent apoptotic cell death, DNA cleavage and nuclear morphological changes induced by a non-specific protein kinase inhibitor, staurosporine. These findings suggest that alpha-tocotrienol can exert anti-apoptotic neuroprotective action independently of its antioxidant property. Among the vitamin E analogs examined, alpha-tocotrienol exhibited the most potent neuroprotective actions in rat striatal cultures.

Molecular basis of vitamin E action: Tocotrienol modulates 12-lipoxygenase, a key mediator of glutamate-induced neurodegeneration

Khanna S, Roy S, Ryu H, Bahadduri P, Swaan PW, Ratan RR, Sen CK.

J Biol Chem. 2003 Oct 31;278(44):43508-15. Epub 2003 Aug 13.

Vitamin E is a generic term for tocopherols and tocotrienols. This work is based on our striking evidence that, in neuronal cells, nanomolar concentrations of alpha-tocotrienol, but not alpha-tocopherol, block glutamate-induced death by suppressing early activation of c-Src kinase (Sen, C. K., Khanna, S., Roy, S., and Packer, L. (2000) J. Biol. Chem. 275, 13049-13055). This study on HT4 and immature primary cortical neurons suggests a central role of 12-lipoxygenase (12-LOX) in executing glutamate-induced neurodegeneration. BL15, an inhibitor of 12-LOX, prevented glutamate-induced neurotoxicity. Moreover, neurons isolated from 12-LOX-deficient mice were observed to be resistant to glutamate-induced death. In the presence of nanomolar alpha-tocotrienol, neurons were resistant to glutamate-, homocysteine-, and l-buthionine sulfoximine-induced toxicity. Long-term time-lapse imaging studies revealed that neurons and their axo-dendritic network are fairly motile under standard culture conditions. Such motility was arrested in response to glutamate challenge. Tocotrienol-treated primary neurons maintained healthy growth and motility even in the presence of excess glutamate. The study of 12-LOX activity and metabolism revealed that this key mediator of glutamate-induced neurodegeneration is subject to control by the nutrient alpha-tocotrienol. In silico docking studies indicated that alpha-tocotrienol may hinder the access of arachidonic acid to the catalytic site of 12-LOX by binding to the opening of a solvent cavity close to the active site. These findings lend further support to alpha-tocotrienol as a potent neuroprotective form of vitamin E.

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Tocotrienols induce IKBKAP expression: a possible therapy for familial dysautonomia

Anderson SL, Qiu J, Rubin BY.

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2003 Jun 20;306(1):303-9.

Familial dysautonomia (FD), a neurodegenerative genetic disorder primarily affecting individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, is caused by mutations in the IKBKAP gene which encodes the IkappaB kinase complex-associated protein (IKAP). The more common or major mutation causes aberrant splicing, resulting in a truncated form of IKAP. Tissues from individuals homozygous for the major mutation contain both mutant and wild-type IKAP transcripts. The apparent leaky nature of this mutation prompted a search for agents capable of elevating the level of expression of the wild-type IKAP transcript. We report the ability of tocotrienols, members of the vitamin E family, to increase transcription of IKAP mRNA in FD-derived cells, with corresponding increases in the correctly spliced transcript and normal protein. These findings suggest that in vivo supplementation with tocotrienols may elevate IKBKAP gene expression and in turn increase the amount of functional IKAP protein produced in FD patients.

Vitamin E isoforms alpha-tocotrienol and gamma-tocopherol prevent cerebral infarction in mice

Mishima K, Tanaka T, Pu F, Egashira N, Iwasaki K, Hidaka R, Matsunaga K, Takata J, Karube Y, Fujiwara M.

Neurosci Lett. 2003 Jan 30;337(1):56-60.

Alpha-tocopherol and its derivatives have been shown to be effective in reducing cerebral ischemia-induced brain damage. However, the effects of other vitamin E isoforms have not been characterized. In the present study, we investigated the effects of six different isoforms of vitamin E on the ischemic brain damage in the mice middle cerebral artery (MCA) occlusion model. All vitamin E isoforms were injected i.v., twice, immediately before and 3 h after the occlusion. Alpha-tocopherol (2 mM), alpha-tocotrienol (0.2 and 2 mM) and gamma-tocopherol (0.2 and 2 mM) significantly decreased the size of the cerebral infarcts 1 day after the MCA occlusion, while gamma-tocotrienol, delta-tocopherol and delta-tocotrienol showed no effect on the cerebral infarcts. These results suggest that alpha-tocotrienol and gamma-tocopherol are potent and effective agents for preventing cerebral infarction induced by MCA occlusion.

Vitamin E sensitive genes in the developing rat fetal brain: A high-density oligonucleotide microarray analysis

Roy S, Lado BH, Khanna S, Sen CK.

FEBS Lett. 2002 Oct 23;530(1-3):17-23.

Vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols) is essential for normal neurological function. Recently we have reported that the neuroprotective properties oftocotrienols are much more potent than that of the widely studied tocopherols (Sen, C.K., Khanna, S., Roy, S. and Parker, L. (2000) J. Biol. Chem. 275, 13049-13055). The objective of this study was to evaluate whether (i) oral supplementation of tocotrienols during pregnancy is bioavailable to fetal and mother brains; (ii) short-term change in dietary vitamin E levels of pregnant rats influences gene expression profile of developing fetal brains. We report that dietary tocotrienol is bioavailable to both mother and fetal brains. The enrichment is more in fetal brain tissue. Using a GeneChip microarray expression profiling approach we have identified a specific set of vitamin E sensitive genes in the developing rat fetal brain.

Molecular basis of vitamin E action. Tocotrienol potently inhibits glutamate-induced pp60 (c-Src) kinase activation and death of HT4 neuronal cells

Sen CK, Khanna S, Roy S, Packer L.

J Biol Chem. 2000 Apr 28;275(17):13049-55.

HT4 hippocampal neuronal cells were studied to compare the efficacy of tocopherols and tocotrienol to protect against glutamate-induced death.Tocotrienols were more effective than alpha-tocopherol in preventing glutamate-induced death. Uptake of tocotrienols from the culture medium was more efficient compared with that of alpha-tocopherol. Vitamin E molecules have potent antioxidant properties. Results show that at low concentrations, tocotrienols may have protected cells by an antioxidant-independent mechanism. Examination of signal transduction pathways revealed that protein tyrosine phosphorylation processes played a central role in the execution of death. Activation of pp60(c-Src) kinase and phosphorylation of ERK were observed in response to glutamate treatment. Nanomolar amounts of alpha-tocotrienol, but not alpha-tocopherol, blocked glutamate-induced death by suppressing glutamate-induced early activation of c-Src kinase. Overexpression of kinase-active c-Src sensitized cells to glutamate-induced death. Tocotrienol treatment prevented death of Src-overexpressing cells treated with glutamate. alpha-Tocotrienol did not influence activity of recombinant c-Src kinase suggesting that its mechanism of action may include regulation of SH domains. This study provides first evidence describing the molecular basis of tocotrienol action. At a concentration 4-10-fold lower than levels detected in plasma of supplemented humans, tocotrienol regulated unique signal transduction processes that were not sensitive to comparable concentrations of tocopherol.

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