Lignans are plant-derived compounds that act as partial estrogen agonists. Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs) represent one of the major components of the extracellular matrix. Here we aimed to understand the role of sesamin (SES), a major lignan compound, in the biosynthesis and degradation of CSPGs in the mouse hippocampus because CSPGs play a key role in the regulation of cognitive functions through the promotion of adult neurogenesis. The expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1β was decreased by SES administration in the hippocampus of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-treated mice, a model of neuroinflammation-induced cognitive deficits. The expression of genes related to biosynthesis and degradation of CSPGs in the hippocampus of LPS-treated mice was both increased and decreased by SES administration. Further, the diffuse extracellular matrix labeling of CSPGs by Wisteria floribunda agglutinin (WFA) in the hippocampus of LPS-treated mice was increased by SES administration. The densities of neural stem cells, late transit-amplifying cells, and newborn-granule cells in the hippocampus of LPS-treated mice were also increased by SES administration. Moreover, SES-induced alterations in gene expression, WFA labeling, and adult neurogenesis in LPS-treated mice were more evident in the dorsal hippocampus (center of cognition) than in the ventral hippocampus (center of emotion). Neither LPS nor SES administration affected locomotor activity, anxiety-like behavior, and depression-related behavior. However, impairments in contextual memory and sensorimotor gating in LPS-treated mice were recovered by SES administration. Our results show that SES can promote adult hippocampal neurogenesis through the upregulation of CSPGs, which may alleviate cognitive deficits induced by neuroinflammation.
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