Compounds from marigold flowers show promise as treatment

Extracts from the flowers tested in laboratory models using zebrafish

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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Compounds extracted from marigold flowers may be useful in treating Parkinson’s disease, according to a study done in laboratory models.

The study, “Active compounds from Calendula officinalis flowers act via PI3K and ERK signaling pathways to offer neuroprotective effects against Parkinson’s disease,” was published in Food Science & Nutrition.

The plant Calendula officinalis, also known as the pot marigold or Jin Zhan Ju, has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine.

In this study, scientists in China and Ukraine tested the effects of an extract from this plant in a zebrafish model of Parkinson’s. The fish larvae were treated with MPTP, a chemical that’s toxic to dopaminergic neurons — the nerve cells that become dysfunctional and die in Parkinson’s.

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Results showed that, in MPTP-exposed fish, treatment with the extract from C. officinalis restored the length and density of dopaminergic neurons to levels close to what was seen in healthy fish, implying that the plant extract has protective effects on these nerve cells.

Chemical analysis of the plant extracts

The scientists then performed chemical analysis of the plant extracts; they identified five biologically active compounds that could contribute to these effects. Two of the compounds, called chlorogenic acid and rutin, have been well-established to have nerve-protecting effects in prior research.

In experiments using cells in dishes, the researchers demonstrated the other three compounds identified in the plant extracts — namely 3,4-dicaffeoylquinic acid (DA), isorhamnetin 3-O-glucoside (IG), and calenduloside E (CE) — also could protect dopaminergic neurons against damage induced by a toxic chemical.

“Our study suggested that SH-SY5Y cell damage was reversed by DA, IG and CE treatment, indicating their potential protective effects on dopaminergic neurons,” the researchers wrote. (SH-SY5Y cells are a line of dopaminergic neurons commonly used for lab studies.)

Pathways may lead to treating Parkinson’s

Further computer-based analyses and cellular experiments suggested that these compounds could activate the activity of a protein called Hsp90 alpha; they also activated a molecular signaling pathway called PI3K/Akt while simultaneously blocking another signaling pathway called ERK. These changes in molecular signaling might help explain how these plant compounds exert protective effects in dopaminergic neurons, the researchers said.

“The compounds were shown to bind to the pocket region of the Hsp90[alpha] protein and then concurrently activate the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway and inhibit the ERK signaling pathway. As multifunctional agents capable of regulating these pathways simultaneously, the compounds extracted from C. officinalis flowers might have therapeutic significance in the treatment of” Parkinson’s, the scientists concluded.