Icariin, a major constituent from Epimedium brevicornum, attenuates ibotenic acid-induced excitotoxicity in rat hippocampus

Nan Zong, Fei Li, Yuanyuan Deng, Jingshan Shi, Feng Jin, Qihai Gong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Excitotoxicity is one of the most extensively studied causes of neuronal death and plays an important role in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Icariin is a flavonoid component of a traditional Chinese medicine reported to possess a broad spectrum of pharmacological effects. The present study was designed to investigate the effects of icariin against learning and memory impairment induced by excitotoxicity. Here, we demonstrated that rats receiving intracerebroventricular injection of excitatory neurotoxin ibotenic acid exhibited impaired learning and memory. Oral administration of icariin at doses of 20 and 40 mg/kg rescued behavioral performance and protected against neurotoxicity in rat hippocampus by suppressing ibotenic acid induced pro-apoptosis. Furthermore, Western blott of hippocampal specimens revealed that icariin up-regulated the expression of calbindin-D28k protein following ibotenic acid administration. Additionally, icariin inhibited mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) family phosphorylation and nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) signaling, implicating the MAPK signaling and NF-κB signaling pathways were involved in the mechanism underlying icariin-mediated neuroprotection against ibotenic acid-induced excitotoxicity. These data suggested that icariin could be a potential agent for treatment of excitotoxicity-related diseases, including AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-119
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Ibotenic acid
  • Icariin
  • Excitotoxicity
  • Rat
  • Hippocampus


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