Lycopene inhibits regulator of calcineurin 1-mediated apoptosis by reducing oxidative stress and down-regulating Nucling in neuronal cells

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Regulator of calcineurin 1 (RCAN1) is located on the Down syndrome critical region (DSCR) locus in human chromosome 21. Oxidative stress and overexpression of RCAN1 are implicated in neuronal impairment in Down's syndrome (DS) and Alzheimer's disease (AD). Serum level of lycopene, an antioxidant pigment, is low in DS and AD patients, which may be related to neuronal damage. The present study is to investigate whether lycopene inhibits apoptosis by reducing ROS levels, NF-κB activation, expression of the apoptosis regulator Nucling, cell viability, and indices of apoptosis (cytochrome c release, caspase-3 activation) in RCAN1-overexpressing neuronal cells.

Methods and results:

Cells transfected with either pcDNA or RCAN1 were treated with or without lycopene. Lycopene decreased intracellular and mitochondrial ROS levels, NF-κB activity, and Nucling expression while it reversed decrease in mitochondrial membrane potential, mitochondrial respiration, and glycolytic function in RCAN1-overexpressing cells. Lycopene inhibited cell death, DNA fragmentation, caspase-3 activation, and cytochrome c release in RCAN1-overexpressing cells.


Lycopene inhibits RCAN1-mediated apoptosis by reducing ROS levels and by inhibiting NF-κB activation, Nucling induction, and the increase in apoptotic indices in neuronal cells. Consumption of lycopene-rich foods may prevent oxidative stress-associated neuronal damage in some pathologic conditions such as DS or AD.

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