Background: According to Compendium of Materia Medica, Gastrodia elata (GE) Blume as a top grade and frequently prescribed herbal medicine has been used in treating dizziness, headaches, and epilepsy, indicating a neuroprotective effect. Because GE is capable of suppressing a hyperactive liver and thus calming endogenous wind, and because Huntington's disease (HD) can be classified as a phenomenon of disturbed liver wind, it is suggested that GE might be beneficial in treating HD. However, although current studies support GE for the prevention of diverse neurodegenerations such as HD, its detailed mechanisms remain elusive. Purpose: To investigate the molecular mechanism of GE in preventing HD by focusing on mitochondrial morphology, which is highly associated with HD etiology and thus proposed as a therapeutic target of neurodegenerations. Study design/methods: The overexpression of the mutant huntingtin (mHTT) gene in rat pheochromocytoma (PC12) cells was used as an in vitro cell model of HD. A filter retardation assay was applied to measure protein aggregations during HTT expression. Cotransfection with mitochondrial fusion and fission genes was used to test their relationships with HTT aggregates by monitoring with a confocal laser scanning microscope and filter retardation assay. Western blot analysis was used to estimate protein expression under different drug treatments or cotransfections with other related genes. Results: The overexpression of mutant but not normal HTT genes significantly resulted in protein aggregations in PC12 cells. GE dose-dependently attenuated mHTT-induced protein aggregations and free radical formations. GE significantly reversed mHTT-induced mitochondrial fragmentation and dysregulation of mitochondrial fusion and fission molecules. The overexpression of mitochondrial fusion genes attenuated mHTT-induced protein aggregations. Further, Mdivi-1, a DRP1 fission molecule inhibitor, significantly reversed mHTT-induced protein aggregations and mitochondrial fragmentation. Conclusion: GE attenuated mHTT aggregations through the control of mitochondrial fusion and the fission pathway.
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