Crocin is a pharmacologically active component of Crocus sativus L. (saffron) used in traditional Chinese medicine. We report here the effects of crocin on neuronally differentiated pheochromocytoma (PC-12) cells deprived of serum/glucose. Depriving the PC-12 cells of serum/glucose caused peroxidation of their cell membrane lipids and decreased intercellular superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity. Treating the PC-12 cells with 10 μM crocin inhibited the formation of peroxidized lipids, partly restored the SOD activity, and maintained the neuron's morphology. These antioxidant effects of crocin were more effective than those of α-tocopherol at the same concentration. Crocin also suppressed the activation of caspase-8 caused by serum/glucose deprivation. These results together with our previous data suggest that crocin is a unique and potent antioxidant that combats oxidative stress in neurons.
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