The water extract of Liuwei dihuang possesses multi-protective properties on neurons and muscle tissue against deficiency of survival motor neuron protein

Yu-Ting Tseng, Yuh-Jyh Jong, Wei-Fang Liang, Fang-Rong Chang, Yi-Ching Lo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Deficiency of survival motor neuron (SMN) protein, which is encoded by the SMN1 and SMN2 genes, induces widespread splicing defects mainly in spinal motor neurons, and leads to spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Currently, there is no effective treatment for SMA. Liuwei dihuang (LWDH), a traditional Chinese herbal formula, possesses multiple therapeutic benefits against various diseases via modulation of the nervous, immune and endocrine systems. Previously, we demonstrated water extract of LWDH (LWDH-WE) protects dopaminergic neurons and improves motor activity in models of Parkinson's disease.

Purpose: This study aimed to investigate the potential protection of LWDH-WE on SMN deficiency-induced neurodegeneration and muscle weakness.

Study design: The effects of LWDH-WE on SMN deficiency-induced neurotoxicity and muscle atrophy were examined by using SMN-deficient NSC34 motor neuron-like cells and SMA-like mice, respectively.

Methods: Inducible SMN-knockdown NSC34 motor neuron-like cells were used to mimic SMN-deficient condition. Doxycycline (1 mu g/ml) was used to induce SMN deficiency in stable NSC34 cell line carrying SMN-specific shRNA. SMA.7 mice were used as a severe type of SMA mouse model. Cell viability was measured by 3-(4,5dimethylthiazol- 2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl-tetrazolium bromide (MTT) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) assays. Apoptotic cells and neurite length were observed by inverted microscope. Protein expressions were examined by western blots. Muscle strength of animals was evaluated by hind-limb suspension test.

Results: LWDH-WE significantly increased SMN protein level, mitochondrial membrane potential and cell viability of SMN-deficient NSC34 cells. LWDH-WE attenuated SMN deficiency-induced down-regulation of B-cell lymphoma-2 (Bcl-2) and up-regulation of cytosolic cytochrome c and cleaved caspase-3. Moreover, LWDH-WE prevented SMN deficiency-induced inhibition of neurite outgrowth and activation of Ras homolog gene family, member A (RhoA)/Rho-associated protein kinase (ROCK2)/phospho-LIM kinase (p-LIMK)/phospho-cofilin (pcofilin) pathway. Furthermore, in SMA-like mice, LWDH-WE improved muscle strength and body weight accompanied with up-regulation of SMN protein in spinal cord, brain, and gastrocnemius muscle tissues.

Conclusion: The present study demonstrated that LWDH-WE protects motor neurons against SMN deficiencyinduced neurodegeneration, and it also improves the muscle strength of SMA-like mice, suggesting the potential benefits of LWDH-WE as a complementary prescription for SMN deficiency-related diseases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-105
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 15 Oct 2017


  • Liuwei dihuang; Survival motor neuron protein; Motor neuron diseases; Spinal muscular atrophy

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