Leptin (LEP, a small protein hormone), produced and acting in the hippocampus, mediates enhancement by mild exercise (ME) of hippocampus-related memory and neurogenesis, which are further increased by an antioxidant carotenoid, astaxanthin (AX). Both are facilitated by the administration of ME or AX alone. The up-regulation of the LEP gene and LEP protein expression in the hippocampus by ME is further elevated when combined with AX. Consistently, the combined interventions increased hippocampal LEP protein. In LEP-deficient ob/ob mice, LEP replacement in the brain restored the ability of ME+AX to enhance hippocampal function. Thus, a combined lifestyle intervention based on ME, including yoga and tai chi, and specific dietary supplements that include antioxidants may together improve cognition and possibly retard cognitive decline in humans.Abstract
Regular exercise and dietary supplements with antioxidants each have the potential to improve cognitive function and attenuate cognitive decline, and, in some cases, they enhance each other. Our current results reveal that low-intensity exercise (mild exercise, ME) and the natural antioxidant carotenoid astaxanthin (AX) each have equivalent beneficial effects on hippocampal neurogenesis and memory function. We found that the enhancement by ME combined with AX in potentiating hippocampus-based plasticity and cognition is mediated by leptin (LEP) made and acting in the hippocampus. In assessing the combined effects upon wild-type (WT) mice undergoing ME with or without an AX diet for four weeks, we found that, when administrated alone, ME and AX separately enhanced neurogenesis and spatial memory, and when combined they were at least additive in their effects. DNA microarray and bioinformatics analyses revealed not only the up-regulation of an antioxidant gene, ABHD3, but also that the up-regulation of LEP gene expression in the hippocampus of WT mice with ME alone is further enhanced by AX. Together, they also increased hippocampal LEP (h-LEP) protein levels and enhanced spatial memory mediated through AKT/STAT3 signaling. AX treatment also has direct action on human neuroblastoma cell lines to increase cell viability associated with increased LEP expression. In LEP-deficient mice (ob/ob), chronic infusion of LEP into the lateral ventricles restored the synergy. Collectively, our findings suggest that not only h-LEP but also exogenous LEP mediates effects of ME on neural functions underlying memory, which is further enhanced by the antioxidant AX.