Equol, a Blood–Brain Barrier Permeable Gut Microbial Metabolite of Dietary Isoflavone Daidzein, Exhibits Neuroprotective Effects against Neurotoxins Induced Toxicity in Human Neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y Cells and Caenorhabditis elegans

Document Type


Date of Original Version



Emerging data support that plant food based isoflavones have ameliorating effects on a variety of neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s disease (PD). Our previous investigation revealed that dietary isoflavones including genistein (GEN), daidzein (DAI), and equol (EQL; a gut microbial metabolite of DAI) showed promising blood–brain barrier permeability and anti-neuroinflammatory activity in murine microglial BV2 cells. However, the neuroprotective effects of EQL against neurotoxins induced toxicity in PD related models remains unclear. Herein, EQL, along with GEN and DAI, were evaluated for their cytoprotective effect in a non-contact co-culture model with LPS-BV2-conditioned media and human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells. In addition, their neuroprotective effects against PD related neurotoxins including 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) and 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium (MPP+) induced cytotoxicity were evaluated in SH-SY5Y cells. Furthermore, EQL was evaluated for its neuroprotective effects against MPP+ induced neurotoxicity using in vivo PD model including Caenorhabditis elegans lifespan assay. DAI (10 μM) and EQL (10 and 20 μM) showed cytoprotective effects by decreasing LPS-BV2-conditioned media induced cytotoxicity in SH-SY5Y cells by 29.2, 32.4 and 27.2%, respectively. EQL (10 and 20 μM) also showed neuroprotective effects by decreasing 6-OHDA and MPP+ induced cytotoxicity in SH-SY5Y cells by 30.6–34.5 and 17.9–18.9%, respectively. Additionally, data from the in vivo assay supported EQL’s neuroprotective effect as it increases survival of C. elegans exposed to MPP+ from 72 to 108 h. Our findings support a growing body of evidence of the neuroprotective effects of dietary isoflavones and further studies are warranted to elucidate their mechanisms of action.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Plant Foods for Human Nutrition