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Int J Mol Med. 2014 Sep;34(3):742-8. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2014.1830. Epub 2014 Jul 2.

Involvement of the ERK pathway in the protective effects of glycyrrhizic acid against the MPP+-induced apoptosis of dopaminergic neuronal cells.

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  • 1College of Life Science, Jilin University, Changchun, Jilin 130012, P.R. China.
  • 2College of Clinical Medicine, Jilin University, Changchun, Jilin 130012, P.R. China.
  • 3College of Electronic Science and Engineering, Jilin University, Changchun, Jilin 130012, P.R. China.


Glycyrrhizic acid (GA), a major compound separated from Radix Glycyrrhizae, has been shwon to exert various biochemical effects, including neuroprotective effects. In the present study, we investigated the protective effects of GA against 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium (MPP+)‑induced damage to differentiated PC12 (DPC12) cells. Compared with the MPP+-treated cells, GA markedly improved cell viability, restored mitochondrial dysfunction, suppressed the overexpression of cleaved poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), and suppressed the overproduction of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and intracellular Ca2+ overload. The protective effects of GA on cell survival were further confirmed in primary cortical neurons. GA markedly increased the expression of phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (p-ERK), as well as its migration from the cytoplasm to nucleus. PD98059, an inhibitor of ERK, blocked GA-enhanced ERK activation and reduced cell viability. However, pre-treatment with GA had no effects on the expression of phosphorylated AKT (p-AKT) and total AKT (t-AKT). These results indicate that the GA-mediated neuroprotective effects are associated with its modulation of multiple anti-apoptotic and pro-apoptotic factors, particularly the ERK signaling pathway. This study provides evidence supporting the use of GA as a potential therapeutic agent for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and neuronal injury.

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