Objectives: Reactive oxygen species induce neurite degeneration before inducing cell death. However, the degenerative mechanisms have not yet been elucidated. While tocotrienols have a known neuroprotective function, the underlying mechanism remains unclear and may or may not involve antioxidant action. In this study, we hypothesize that free radical-derived membrane injury is one possible mechanism for inducing neurite degeneration. Therefore, we examined the potential neuroprotective effect of tocotrienols mediated through its antioxidant activity. Methods: Mouse neuroblastoma neuro2a cells were used to examine the effect of the water-soluble free radical generator 2,2'-azobis(2-methylpropionamide) dihydrochloride (AAPH) on neurite dynamics. After 24 hours of AAPH treatment, cell viability, neurite number, and the number of altered neurites were measured in the presence or absence of α-tocotrienol. Results: Treatment of neuro2a cells with a low concentration of AAPH induces neurite degeneration, but not cell death. Treatment with 5 μM α-tocotrienol significantly inhibited neurite degeneration in AAPH-treated neuro2a cells. Furthermore, morphological changes in AAPH-treated neuro2a cells were similar to those observed with colchicine treatment. Conclusions: α-Tocotrienol may scavenge AAPH-derived free radicals and alkoxyl radicals that are generated from AAPH-derived peroxyl radicals on cell membranes. Therefore, α-tocotrienol may have a neuroprotective effect mediated by its antioxidant activity.
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