St. John's Wort Changes Fluidity in Brain Cells

Jim Crocker
1st May, 2024

St. John's Wort Changes Fluidity in Brain Cells

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In a University of Bonn study, St. John's wort extract (SJW) Ze 117 may help stabilize brain cell membranes affected by stress
  • SJW Ze 117 increases cellular cholesterol by 42.5%, which could influence serotonin signaling and mood regulation
  • These findings suggest SJW Ze 117's potential as a novel treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD) by targeting cellular processes
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a common and debilitating mental illness that affects millions of people worldwide. It's characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities, and a range of physical and cognitive symptoms. Despite its prevalence, the exact causes of MDD remain elusive, and current treatments do not work for all patients[2]. Researchers are continually seeking to better understand the underlying mechanisms of MDD to develop more effective therapies. A recent study by the University of Bonn[1] has provided new insights into how chronic stress may contribute to the development of MDD. Chronic stress is known to activate the hypothalamic‒pituitary‒adrenal (HPA) axis, a major part of the body's stress response system. This activation leads to increased levels of glucocorticoids, such as cortisol, which can cause changes in the lipid content of cellular plasma membranes. These changes are believed to play a role in the onset of depressive disorders. The University of Bonn's research focused on the effects of St. John's wort extract (SJW) Ze 117, a natural remedy often used as an alternative to synthetic antidepressants. The study investigated how Ze 117 interacts with dexamethasone, a synthetic glucocorticoid, and simvastatin, a cholesterol-lowering medication. Dexamethasone was shown to increase the fluidity of plasma membranes in C6 cells, a type of glial cell found in the nervous system. However, when Ze 117 was administered, it counteracted this effect, suggesting that it could potentially stabilize the changes in membrane fluidity caused by stress. Interestingly, the study revealed that Ze 117's effects were not due to alterations in the ratios of certain fatty acids within the cells, but rather through an increase in cellular cholesterol content by 42.5%. In contrast, dexamethasone reduced cholesterol levels, similar to simvastatin. These changes in cholesterol levels were found to affect the recruitment of β-arrestin 2 to the 5-HT1a receptor, a protein involved in serotonin signaling. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in mood regulation, and its dysfunction is associated with MDD[3]. Previous research has challenged the traditional serotonin hypothesis of depression, suggesting that the benefits of antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may stem from their effects on neuroplasticity, rather than simply increasing serotonin levels[3]. The University of Bonn's study builds on this by demonstrating that Ze 117 may exert its antidepressant effects by modulating cellular cholesterol metabolism, which in turn affects serotonin receptor signaling. The findings of this study are also supported by earlier research that has linked MDD with increased oxidative stress and elevated cortisol levels, both of which can have detrimental effects on cellular function[4][5]. By potentially stabilizing membrane fluidity and receptor function, Ze 117 could offer a novel therapeutic approach that addresses these biochemical aspects of MDD. In summary, the University of Bonn's research provides evidence that the antidepressant actions of St. John's wort extract Ze 117 may be related to its ability to modulate the lipid composition of cellular membranes, particularly cholesterol content, and thereby influence serotonin receptor signaling. These findings contribute to a deeper understanding of the cellular processes involved in MDD and suggest new avenues for the development of antidepressant treatments. Further research is necessary to confirm these effects in human subjects and to explore the clinical implications of these discoveries.

MedicineBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) St. John's wort extract Ze 117 alters the membrane fluidity of C6 glioma cells by influencing cellular cholesterol metabolism.

Published 30th April, 2024

Journal: Scientific reports

Issue: Vol 14, Issue 1, Apr 2024

Related Studies

2) Pathogenesis of depression: Insights from human and rodent studies.

3) From Serotonin to Neuroplasticity: Evolvement of Theories for Major Depressive Disorder.

4) HPA Axis in the Pathomechanism of Depression and Schizophrenia: New Therapeutic Strategies Based on Its Participation.

5) Elevated serum levels of malondialdehyde and cortisol are associated with major depressive disorder: A case-control study.

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