Mar. Drugs 2015, 13, 1-x manuscripts; doi:10.3390/md130x000x
Astaxanthin as a Potential Neuroprotective Agent for
Haijian Wu 1, Huanjiang Niu 1, Anwen Shao 2, Cheng Wu 1, Brandon J. Dixon 3,
Jianmin Zhang 2, Shuxu Yang 1,* and Yirong Wang 1,*
1 Department of Neurosurgery, Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital, School of Medicine,
Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, 310016, China; E-Mails: firstname.lastname@example.org (H.W.);
email@example.com (H.N.); firstname.lastname@example.org (C.W.)
2 Department of Neurosurgery, Second Affiliated Hospital, School of Medicine, Zhejiang University,
Hangzhou, 310009, China; E-Mails: email@example.com (A.S.); firstname.lastname@example.org (J.Z.)
3 Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, School of Medicine, Loma Linda University,
Loma Linda, CA, 92350, USA.; E-Mail: Bjdixon@llu.edu (B.D.)
* Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed; E-Mails: email@example.com (S.Y.),
Tel./Fax: +86-571-8600-6166; firstname.lastname@example.org (Y.W.), Tel./Fax: +86-571-8600-6166.
Academic Editor: George Perry
Received: 6 June 2015 / Accepted: 7 September 2015 / Published:
Abstract: Neurological diseases, which consist of acute injuries and chronic
neurodegeneration, are the leading causes of human death and disability. However, the
pathophysiology of these diseases have not been fully elucidated, and effective treatments
are still lacking. Astaxanthin, a member of the xanthophyll group, is a red-orange
carotenoid with unique cell membrane actions and diverse biological activities. More
importantly, there is evidence demonstrating that astaxanthin confers neuroprotective
effects in experimental models of acute injuries, chronic neurodegenerative disorders, and
neurological diseases. The beneficial effects of astaxanthin are linked to its oxidative,
anti-inflammatory, and anti-apoptotic characteristics. In this review, we will focus on the
neuroprotective properties of astaxanthin and explore the underlying mechanisms in the
setting of neurological diseases.
Keywords: astaxanthin; oxidative stress; inflammation; apoptosis; neuroprotection;
Mar. Drugs 2015, 13 2
Neurological diseases, exemplified by acute injuries (e.g., stroke and traumatic brain injury) and
chronic neurodegeneration (e.g., Alzheimer’s d isease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease),
are common causes of human death and disability [1,2]. Oxidative stress, inflammation, and apoptosis
are some of the mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of these diseases [3,4]. For example, highly
insoluble amyloid beta peptide deposits and neurofibrillary tangles provide obvious stimuli for
oxidative stress and inflammation in a brain with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), which significantly
contributes to neuronal death in this disease [5–7]. In addition, there is evidence demonstrating that
mitochondrial deficits, oxidative and nitrosative stress, accumulation and aggregation of aberrant or
misfolded proteins (i.e., α-synuclein), and dysfunction of ubiquitin-proteasome system represents the
principal molecular events that commonly underlie the pathogenesis of familial and sporadic forms
of Parkinson’s disease (PD) [8,9]. Additionally, highly polymorphic CAG tri-nucleotide repeat
expansions in exon-1 of the huntingtin gene encodes an abnormally long poly-glutamine repeat, which
is associated with Huntington’s d isease (HD)-related brain pathology . Poly-glutamine expansion
causes huntingtin to aggregate and accumulate in the nucleus. This leads to abnormal interactions with
other proteins, which results in intra-nuclear accumulation of mutant huntingtin and the formation of
neuropil aggregates that may ultimately lead to neuronal cell death . Therefore, multi-targeted
pharmacological agents may be effective for the treatment of these devastating diseases.
Astaxanthin, a unique member of the xanthophylls, is a deep red-colored phytonutrient that can be
synthesized by a microalgae called Haematococcus pluvialis . Distinct from other members of the
xanthophylls, astaxanthin has two hydroxyl groups . Astaxanthin spans the bi-lipid layer and is
long enough that the two hydroxyl groups jut into the fluid phase near the membrane, and that when
electrons are extracted from these hyroxyl groups by free radicals, the molecule is resonance
stabilized. As a consequence, these properties allow astaxanthin to do a lot in the body. For instance,
astaxanthin can dramatically decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease . A diet supplemented
with astaxanthin (75 or 200 mg/kg body weight per day) for 8 weeks has been shown to improve
endothelium-dependent vasodilatation in resistance vessels, reduce systolic blood pressure, and
improve cardiovascular remodeling in spontaneously hypertensive rats . In addition, astaxanthin
(100 and 500 mg/100 g) for 60 days protects against serum protein oxidation in hyper-cholesterolemic
rabbits . Studies have also demonstrated that astaxanthin can easily cross the BBB to protect the
brain from acute injury and chronic neurodegeneration [17,18]. The neuroprotective properties of this
molecule involves anti-oxidation, anti-inflammation, and anti-apoptotis [19–21]. Thus, this review
article will focus on the beneficial effects of astaxanthin and explore the underlying mechanisms
observed in experimental models of neurological diseases. We also propose that further studies
involving astaxanthin are needed, in order to evaluate its potential application in the treatment of
2. Astaxanthin: Source, Biochemistry, Bioavailability, and Safety
Xanthophyll is a class of oxygen-containing carotenoid pigments whose biosynthesis in plants derives
from the lycopene. Astaxanthin is a reddish pigment which belongs to the xanthophyll family .
Mar. Drugs 2015, 13 3
This compound naturally exists in a wide variety of living organisms which includes microalgae,
complex plants, and seafood . The commercial form of astaxanthin is mainly synthesized from the
algae Haematococcus pluvialis and the yeast Phaffia rhodozyma. As a member of the xanthophyll
group, astaxanthin is closely related to other carotenoids suc h as β-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
As a member of the xanthophyll group, astaxanthin is closely related to other carotenoids such as
β-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin . Similarly, they share many of the physiological and metabolic
functions attributed to carotenoids . Unlike β-carotene, astaxanthin does not have pro-vitamin A
activity in the human body .
The molar mass of astaxanthin is 596.84 g/mol and the molecular formula is C40H52O4. It is a
symmetric molecule consisting of two terminal rings joined by a short polyene ring . The hydroxyl
group at the end of the molecule enables it to esterify fatty acids to form mono-esters or di-esters .
Natural astaxanthin mainly exists in an esterified form, while the synthetic form is produced in a free
form . Astaxanthin also contains conjugated double bonds, giving this molecule strong anti-oxidant
properties by donating electrons and reacting with free radicals to terminate free radical chain reactions
within cells [25,28].
Astaxanthin has both lipophilic and hydrophilic properties, since it is fat-soluble and can be carried
by fat molecules directly to tissues and organs that need it the most, like the brain, retina, and skeletal
muscle . Astaxanthin is first absorbed into enterocytes through passive diffusion and undergoes
facilitated diffusion in the presence of lipids . The unesterified forms are incorporated into
chylomicrons and are transported into the liver via the lymphatic system . The liver does not
biochemically convert these molecules into vitamin A . Instead, it is incorporated into lipoproteins
that are transported into organs and tissues via the circulation .
Astaxanthin is safe to consume with food and contains no reports of side effects [33,34].
One randomized clinical trial found that 6 mg/day of astaxanthin can be safely consumed by healthy
adults . In addition, numerous human clinical trials have shown that the astaxanthin rich extract,
Haematococcus pluvialis, is safe as well [36,37]. Hoffman-La Roche confirmed the safety of astaxanthin
with acute, mutagenicity, teratogenicity, embryotoxicity, and reproductive toxicity tests . In addition,
the United States Food and Drug Administration approved the use of astaxanthin as a dietary
supplement in 1999 .
3. Neuroprotective Properties of Astaxanthin in Neurological Diseases
There have been numerous studies concerning the beneficial effects of astaxanthin.
Astaxanthin-mediated neuroprotection in experimental models of neurological disorders involves
anti-oxidantion, anti-inflammation, and anti-apoptotic mechanisms [17,39]. The following sections
will delve into these molecular mechanisms and their potential as treatments for neurological diseases.
3.1. Anti-Oxidant Effects
Oxidative stress is a key mediator in the pathology of neurological diseases [40–42]. Disturbance of
the equilibrium status of pro-oxidant/anti-oxidant reactions in cells can lead to oxidative stress, which
causes generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and free radicals . When produced in excessive
amounts, ROS like the superoxide anion radical (O2−) and its dismutation product, hydrogen peroxide
Mar. Drugs 2015, 13 4
(H2O2), are detrimental to metabolic functions [44,45]. The O2− radical can oxidize the [4Fe-4S] clusters
of dehydratases, such as aconitase, causing inactivation and release of Fe2+ [46,47]. Thereafter, Fe2+
reacts with H2O2 to yield the potent oxidizing free radical species hydroxyl radical (OH). These
substances further react with key organic substrates, such as DNA, proteins, and lipids, to disturb cell
function and cause cell death . It is worth mentioning that astaxanthin can act as a safeguard
against oxidative damage through various mechanisms, by quenching of singlet oxygen, scavenging of
radicals, inhibiting lipid peroxidation, and regulating gene expression related to oxidative stress [49–52].
For example, astaxanthin exerts beneficial effects against HgCl2-induced acute renal failure by
preventing lipid and protein oxidation . In an in vivo murine model, astaxanthin administration
prevented N-Methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-triggered retinal damage, which is associated with
decreasing lipid peroxidation and oxidative DNA damage . Astaxanthin treatment ameliorates
cyclophosphamide-induced oxidative stress and the subsequent DNA damage in rat hepatocytes .
The protective effect of this molecule is attributed to the activation of nuclear erythroid 2-related factor 2
(Nrf2) antioxidant response element (ARE) pathway, which eventually facilitates Nrf2-dependent gene
expression of heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) and NAD(P)H: quinine oxidoreductase-1 (NQO-1) . In
the human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cell line ARPE-19, astaxanthin inhibited the intracellular
production of ROS and prevented H2O2-induced decrease in retinal pigment epithelial cell viability .
Astaxanthin also increased the nuclear translocation of Nrf2 and enhanced the expression of phase II
anti-oxidant enzymes through the activation of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathway,
which eventually provided protection against H2O2-induced oxidative stress in ARPE-19 cells .
The anti-oxidative effects of astaxanthin have also been investigated in experimental models of
acute neurological conditions (Figure 1). Lee et al. reported that astaxanthin provides neuroprotective
effects against oxidative stress induced by oxygen-glucose deprivation in SH-SY5Y cells and 10-min
global cerebral ischemia in rats . In a murine model of ischemic stroke, pre-treatment with
astaxanthin decreased ROS production and alleviated lipid peroxidation in the ipsilateral brain of rats
subjected to middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) . Simultaneously, astaxanthin reduced
cerebral infarction and promoted locomotor function recovery following MCAO . Zhang et al.,
found that administration of astaxanthin had the potential of alleviating early brain injury (EBI) after
subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) through its anti-oxidative properties . Treatment with astaxanthin
is believed to confer protective effects by restoring endogenous anti-oxidant enzymes of glutathione
(GSH) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) following SAH . Wu et al. reported that post-SAH
treatment of astaxanthin facilitated the Nrf2-ARE pathway and ameliorated EBI in a prechiasmatic
cistern model of SAH . Astaxanthin activated the Nrf2-ARE signaling pathway to up-regulate the
expression of Nrf2-regulated enzymes like HO-1, NQO-1 and glutathione-S-transferase-α1 (GST-α1)
to resist oxidative stress .
Astaxanthin also plays a role in preventing the development of chronic neurodegeneration.
It boosted the expression of HO-1 and protected neurons against Aβ-induced cytotoxicity [59,60].
Astaxanthin-stimulated activation of extracellular regulated protein kinase (ERK) signaling pathway
facilitated the dissociation of Nrf2 from Keap1, promoting the nuclear translocation and DNA-binding
activity of Nrf2 leading to up-regulation of HO-1 expression and protection against Aβ-induced
neurotoxicity . In a cellular model of PD, astaxanthin reduced the generation of intracellular
ROS and provided cytoprotective effects against 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium (MPP+)-induced
Mar. Drugs 2015, 13 5
cytotoxicity . In addition, astaxanthin enhanced HO-1 expression and limited NADPH oxidase 2
(NOX2)-mediated oxidative damage in MPP+-treated PC12 cells . Astaxanthin antagonized
MPP+-induced oxidative stress through the regulation of specificity protein 1 (Sp1) and NMDA
receptor subunit 1 (NR1) signaling pathway . Pre-treatment with astaxanthin markedly inhibited
the up-regulation and nuclear transfer of Sp1, thereby alleviated MPP+-induced production of
intracellular ROS and cytotoxicity in PC12 cells . Thus, astaxanthin provides protection against
oxidative attacks in experimental neurological diseases.
Figure 1. The anti-oxidative effects of astaxanthin in neurological diseases. Astaxanthin
facilitates the dissociation and nuclear translocation of nuclear erythroid 2-related factor
(Nrf2), through activation of the PI3K/Akt and ERK signaling pathways, which contributes
to increased expression of Nrf2-regulated enzymes like HO-1, NQO-1, and GST-α1 that
resist oxidative stress. In addition, astaxanthin negatively regulates Sp1/NR1 signaling
pathway, alleviating the production of intracellular ROS and oxidative stress.
3.2. Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Inflammation is defined as series of complex immune responses that biologically occurs as a
reaction to injuries of the body. It functions as a host defense mechanism to clear out damaged tissue
from the original insult and initiates the tissue repair process . However, excessive or uncontrolled
inflammation is detrimental to the host and can cause da mage to the host’s cells and tissues . In the
central nervous system (CNS), inflammation has a critical role in both acute conditions (i.e., stroke and
traumatic injury) and chronic neurodegenerative conditions (e.g., AD, PD, and HD) . Interestingly,
Mar. Drugs 2015, 13 6
astaxanthin exhibits anti-inflammatory effects in lipopolysaccharide-induced uveitis by directly blocking
the activity of inducible nitric oxide synthase (NOS) (Figure 2) . In addition, astaxanthin
suppressed gene expression of inflammatory mediators (i.e., TNF-α and IL-1β) and alleviated
endotoxin-induced uveitis by blocking the NF-κB-dependent signaling pathway . Under normal
conditions NF-κB, a heterodimer composed of p50 and p65 subunits, interacts with inhibitor of NF-κB
(IκB) and remains inactive in the cytosol . Upon stimulation, IκB undergoes phosphorylation by IκB
kinase β (IKKβ) and is degraded via the ubiquitin proteasome pathway [70,71]. Dissociation of IκB
from the p50/p65 heterodimer exposes the nuclear localization signal on NF-κB, which subsequently
leads to the translocation of NF-κB (p65) into the nucleus to regulate the transcription of inflammatory
genes . Astaxanthin treatment effectively alleviated NF-κB-related inflammation in the liver of
mice subjected to a high fructose and high fat diet by suppressing IKKβ phosphorylation and nuclear
translocation of NF-κB (p65) subunit . Astaxanthin also suppressed ROS-induced nuclear
expression of NF-κB (p65) and reduced the downstream production of pro-inflammatory cytokines
(i.e., IL-1β, IL-6 and TNF-α) in U937 mononuclear cells by restoring the physiological levels of
protein tyrosine phosphatase-1 (SHP-1) . In a mouse model of experimental choroidal
neovascularization, Izumi-Nagai demonstrated that astaxanthin treatment led to significant inhibition of
macrophage infiltration into choroidal neovascularization . Furthermore, astaxanthin suppressed
IκB-α degradation and NF-κB nuclear translocation, resulting in subsequent down-regulation of
inflammatory molecules (i.e., IL-6, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), intercellular adhesion
molecule-1 (ICAM-1), and monocyte chemotactic protein 1 (MCP1) . Astaxanthin also decreased
gastric inflammation in mice infected with Helicobacter pylori, shifting the T-lymphocyte response
from a Th1 response to a Th1/Th2 response . Additionally, astaxanthin decreased nitric oxide
(NO) production and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) activity in macrophages, resulting in
inhibition of cyclooxygenase and
down-regulation of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and TNF-α in mice . Dietary administration of
astaxanthin significantly suppressed aberrant NF-κB activation in co lonic mucosa, lowering gene
expressions of IL-1β, IL-6, and COX-2, which contributes to attenuation of dextran sulfate sodium
(DSS)-induced colitis . Lee and colleagues discovered that astaxanthin prevented inflammatory
processes by suppressing the activation of NF-κB signaling and the production of pro-inflammatory
cytokines (e.g., TNF-α and IL-1β) using both in vitro and in vivo models . In human keratinocytes,
Terazawa et al. demonstrated that astaxanthin interrupts the auto-phosphorylation and self-activation
of mitogen- and stress-activated protein kinase-1 (MSK1), which results in decreased phosphorylation
of NF-κB (p65) and deficiency of NF-κB DNA binding activity . As a consequence, UVB-induced
expression and secretion of PGE2 and IL-8 were down-regulated in these human keratinocytes .
In a prechiasmatic cistern SAH model, astaxanthin provides neuroprotection against EBI through
suppression of cerebral inflammation . Post-treatment with astaxanthin after SAH reduced neutrophil
infiltration, suppressing the activity of NF-κB, decreasing the protein and mRNA levels of inflammatory
mediators IL-1β, TNF-α, and ICAM-1, and dramatically reversed brain inflammation . As a result
secondary brain injury cascades, neuronal degeneration, BBB disruption, cerebral edema, and
neurological dysfunction, were all alleviated after astaxanthin administration . However, there is
still a lack of research documenting the anti-inflammatory effects of astaxanthin on the treatment of
neurological disorders. Several studies have reported that astaxanthin can enhance both humoral and
Mar. Drugs 2015, 13 7
cell-mediated immune responses [26,80–83]. Dietary supplement of astaxanthin can stimulate T cell
and B cell mitogen-induced lymphocyte proliferation, increase the cytotoxic activity of natural killer
cell, and enhance IFN-γ and IL-6 production in young healthy adult female human subjects .
Additionally, Balietti et al. showed gender-related differences in the anti-inflammatory effects of
astaxanthin on the aging rat brain . However, it is still unknown if this molecule exerts different
anti-inflammatory effects in female and male brains under pathological conditions. Therefore, there is
a need for future studies elucidating the inflammatory regulation mechanisms of astaxanthin.
Figure 2. The anti-inflammatory effects of astaxanthin in neurological diseases. Through
suppression of IκB-α degradation and NF-κB nuclear translocation, astaxanthin inhibits the
expression of inflammatory molecules IL-6, ICAM-1, and MCP1. Astaxanthin also suppresses
nuclear expression of NF-κB and reduces downstream production of pro-inflammatory
cytokines by restoring physiological levels of SHP-1.
3.3. Anti-Apoptotic Effects
Apoptosis is a highly sophisticated energy-dependent process of programmed cell death .
Morphologically, it is characterized by shrinkage of the cell, membrane blebbing, nuclear fragmentation
and chromatin condensation . Under normal physiological conditions, apoptosis is vital for
embryonic development and tissue homeostasis . Under pathological conditions, uncontrolled
apoptosis is harmful and contributes to the pathogenesis of a variety of human diseases including
neurological disorders . Kim et al. demonstrated that astaxanthin provided protection against
H2O2-mediated apoptosis in a mouse neural progenitor cell culture model . Astaxanthin is believed
Mar. Drugs 2015, 13 8
to inhibit H2O2-mediated apoptotic cell death by maintaining mitochondria integrity, reducing
cytochrome c release from the mitochondria, and inhibiting caspase activation in astaxanthin
pre-treated cells through the modulation of p38 and mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK)
signaling pathways in neural progenitor cells from mice . Dong et al. reported that astaxanthin
significantly reduced apoptotic death of retinal ganglion cells and alleviated diabetic retinopathy
by oxidative stress inhibition . In addition, astaxanthin administration increased Akt, enhanced Bad
phosphorylation, and down-regulated the activation of downstream pro-apoptotic proteins
(e.g., cytochrome c and caspase-3/9), leading to the amelioration of mitochondrial-related apoptosis
and the attenuation of early acute kidney injury following severe burns .
Astaxanthin exerts a protective effect against neuronal apoptosis in the setting of neurological
diseases as well (Figure 3). For example, astaxanthin mediated the activation of the PI3K/Akt survival
pathway, promoted the phosphorylation-dependent inactivation of Bad, and decreased caspase-
dependent neuronal apoptosis after SAH . As a result, secondary brain injury in the early period of
SAH, BBB disruption, cerebral edema, neurological deficits were all alleviated after treatment with
astaxanthin . Intra-cerebroventricular administration of astaxanthin antagonized
ischemia/reperfusion-induced translocation of cytochrome c from the mitochondria to the cytoplasm,
and prevented apoptosis in a transient MCAO model of ischemic stroke . Lu et al. In addition,
reported similar findings demonstrating that astaxanthin exhibits noticeable neuroprotection against
cerebral ischemia-reperfusion insults through its anti-apoptotic actions . In addition, pre-treatment
with astaxanthin also significantly restored the mitochondrial membrane potential, prevented H2O2-
induced neuronal apoptosis, decreased cerebral infarct volume, and improved neurological function
after MCAO .
In an in vitro model of PD, Ikeda et al. demonstrated that astaxanthin attenuates 6-hydroxydopamine
(6-OHDA)-induced apoptosis in human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells . Pre-treatment with
astaxanthin significantly inhibits ROS generation and subsequent phosphorylation of p38 MAPK,
ameliorates mitochondrial dysfunction, increases ΔΨm, reduces cytochrome c release, caspase
activation, and rescues the cell from 6-OHDA-induced apoptosis [94,95]. Lee and coworkers found that
astaxanthin treatment prevents MPP+-induced up-regulation of Bax and down-regulation of Bcl-2,
alleviating ΔΨ m collapse in SH-SY5Y cells and protects the neuron against MPP+-induced
mitochondrial damage and apoptosis . Liu et al. demonstrated that astaxanthin has protective
effects on 6-OHDA-induced cellular toxicity and apoptotic death of dopaminergic SH-SY5Y cells by
inhibiting intracellular ROS generation, the decrease of mitochondrial membrane potential, the release
of mitochondrial cytochrome c .
Intrestingly, it has been shown that astaxanthin induces cancer cell apoptosis through a
mitochondrial-dependent pathway . Astaxanthin mediates the inhibition of the Janus kinase 1
(JAK1)/STAT3 (signal transducer and activator of transcription 3) signaling pathway in hepatocellular
carcinoma CBRH-7919 cells which down-regulates the anti-apoptotic gene expression of Bcl-2 and
Bcl-xl, while also enhancing the pro-apoptotic gene expression of Bax resulting in apoptosis .
Another study also reported that astaxanthin induces caspase-mediated mitochondrial apoptosis by
down-regulating the expression of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 and survivin while up-regulating pro-apoptotic
Bax and Bad . It has also been reported that astaxanthin can induce the intrinsic apoptotic
pathway in a hamster model of oral cancer through the inactivation of ERK/MAPK and PI3K/Akt
Mar. Drugs 2015, 13 9
cascades which leads to the inhibition of NF-κB and Wnt/β-catenin . Thus, depending on the
pathological condition, astaxanthin may exert either anti-apoptotic or pro-apoptotic effects.
Figure 3. The anti-apoptotic effects of astaxanthin in neurological diseases. Astaxanthin
induces the activation of PI3K/Akt survival pathway, promoting the phosphorylation-dependent
inactivation of Bad, which leads to a decrease in caspase-dependent neuronal apoptosis.
Astaxanthin also maintains mitochondria integrity through modulation of p38 and MEK
signaling pathways, which reduces cytochrome c release and inhibits caspase-dependent
apoptotic cell death.
4. Conclusions and Perspective
Astaxanthin confers multiple neuroprotective effects in various experimental models of neurological
diseases, which includes both acute injuries and chronic neurodegenerative disorders. The protective
effects of astaxanthin are associated with its anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-apoptotic effects.
Astaxanthin is a safe nutrient, with no toxic effects when it is consumed with food. Furthermore, as a
fat-soluble compound, astaxanthin is able to effectively pass through the BBB. Therefore, astaxanthin
is an excellent candidate for treating neurological diseases. It is essential that there continues to be
further evaluations of the protective properties and underlying mechanisms of astaxanthin, which may
eventually lead to astaxanthin becoming a novel neuroprotective agent.
Although the neuroprotective effects of astaxanthin have been examined in several experimental
models of neurological disorders, there is a lack of research in some areas. Future studies should focus
on the pharmaceutical potential and effects of astaxanthin esters in the treatment of neurological
Mar. Drugs 2015, 13 10
disorders, especially since astaxanthin diesters can be easily absorbed into the metabolism and may
increase biological activity more effectively than its free form . Furthermore, it is important to note
that a lot of the current data concerning astaxanthin-mediated neuroprotection mainly comes from
ischemic stroke, SAH, AD, and PD. There is minimal evidence available regarding other neurological
diseases such as traumatic brain injury, intracerebral hemorrhage, and HD. Therefore, future
investigations should include these neurological disease models. The therapeutic time window,
reliability of drug administration routes, and the optimal dosages of astaxanthin are other areas that
need to be explored and determined. Most importantly, the development of clinical trials to assess
astaxanthin as treatment of neurological diseases is warranted since there are a number of promising
general safety results, neurological experimental model studies, and clinical trials in other diseases.
This study was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant. 81171096 and
81371433), Public Technology Application Research Project of Zhejiang Province (2014C33G2010288).
H.W. and H.N. collected the data and wrote the manuscript. A.S. and C.W. checked the data for accuracy.
B.D. and J.Z. polished the language. Y.S. and Y.W. designed the review study.
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
1. Corrigan, J.D.; Selassie, A.W.; Orman, J.A. The epidemiology of traumatic brain injury. J. Head
Trauma Rehabil. 2010, 25, 72–80.
2. Mayeux, R. Epidemiology of neurodegeneration. Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 2003, 26, 81–104.
3. Bramlett, H.M.; Dietrich, W.D. Pathophysiology of cerebral ischemia and brain trauma:
Similarities and differences. J. Cereb. Blood Flow Metab. 2004, 24, 133–150.
4. Bossy-Wetzel, E.; Schwarzenbacher, R.; Lipton, S.A. Molecular pathways to neurodegeneration.
Nat. Med. 2004, 10, S2–S9.
5. Manczak, M.; Anekonda, T.S.; Henson, E.; Park, B.S.; Quinn, J.; Reddy, P.H. Mitochondria are a
direct site of A beta accumulation in Alzheimer’s disease neurons: Implications for free radical
generation and oxidative damage in disease progression. Hum. Mol. Genet. 2006, 15, 1437–1449.
6. Cutler, R.G.; Kelly, J.; Storie, K.; Pedersen, W.A.; Tammara, A.; Hatanpaa, K.; Troncoso, J.C.;
Mattson, M.P. Involvement of oxidative stress-induced abnormalities in ceramide and cholesterol
metabolism in brain aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2004, 101,
7. Hanzel, C.E.; Pichet-Binette, A.; Pimentel, L.S.; Iulita, M.F.; Allard, S.; Ducatenzeiler, A.;
do Carmo, S.; Cuello, A.C. Neuronal driven pre-plaque inflammation in a transgenic rat model of
Alzheimer’s disease. Neurobiol. Aging 2014, 35, 2249–2262.
Mar. Drugs 2015, 13 11
8. Moore, D.J.; West, A.B.; Dawson, V.L.; Dawson, T.M. Molecular pathophysiology of
Parkinson’s disease. Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 2005, 28, 57–87.
9. Dawson, T.M.; Dawson, V.L. Molecular pathways of neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease.
Science 2003, 302, 819–822.
10. Ross, C.A.; Tabrizi, S.J. Huntington’s disease: From molecular pathogenesis to clinical
treatment. Lancet Neurol. 2011, 10, 83–98.
11. Bano, D.; Zanetti, F.; Mende, Y.; Nicotera, P. Neurodegenerative processes in Huntington’s
disease. Cell Death Dis. 2011, 2, e228.
12. Regnier, P.; Bastias, J.; Rodriguez-Ruiz, V.; Caballero-Casero, N.; Caballo, C.; Sicilia, D.;
Fuentes, A.; Maire, M.; Crepin, M.; Letourneur, D.; et al. Astaxanthin from Haematococcus
Pluvialis Prevents Oxidative Stress on Human Endothelial Cells without Toxicity. Mar. Drugs
2015, 13, 2857–2874.
13. Ambati, R.R.; Phang, S.M.; Ravi, S.; Aswathanarayana, R.G. Astaxanthin: Sources, extraction,
stability, biological activities and its commercial applications—A review. Mar. Drugs 2014, 12,
14. Fassett, R.G.; Coombes, J.S. Astaxanthin: A potential therapeutic agent in cardiovascular disease.
Mar. Drugs 2011, 9, 447–465.
15. Monroy-Ruiz, J.; Sevilla, M.A.; Carron, R.; Montero, M.J. Astaxanthin-enriched-diet reduces
blood pressure and improves cardiovascular parameters in spontaneously hypertensive rats.
Pharmacol. Res. 2011, 63, 44–50.
16. Augusti, P.R.; Quatrin, A.; Somacal, S.; Conterato, G.M.; Sobieski, R.; Ruviaro, A.R.;
Maurer, L.H.; Duarte, M.M.; Roehrs, M.; Emanuelli, T. Astaxanthin prevents changes in the
activities of thioredoxin reductase and paraoxonase in hypercholesterolemic rabbits. J. Clin.
Biochem. Nutr. 2012, 51, 42–49.
17. Shen, H.; Kuo, C.C.; Chou, J.; Delvolve, A.; Jackson, S.N.; Post, J.; Woods, A.S.; Hoffer, B.J.;
Wang, Y.; Harvey, B.K. Astaxanthin reduces ischemic brain injury in adult rats. FASEB J. 2009,
18. Ying, C.J.; Zhang, F.; Zhou, X.Y.; Hu, X.T.; Chen, J.; Wen, X.R.; Sun, Y.; Zheng, K.Y.;
Tang, R.X.; Song, Y.J. Anti-inflammatory Effect of Astaxanthin on the Sickness Behavior
Induced by Diabetes Mellitus. Cell. Mol. Neurobiol. 2015, doi:10.1007/s10571-015-0197-3.
19. Zhang, X.S.; Zhang, X.; Zhou, M.L.; Zhou, X.M.; Li, N.; Li, W.; Cong, Z.X.; Sun, Q.;
Zhuang, Z.; Wang, C.X.; et al. Amelioration of oxidative stress and protection against early brain
injury by astaxanthin after experimental subarachnoid hemorrhage. J. Neurosurg. 2014, 121,
20. Zhang, X.S.; Zhang, X.; Wu, Q.; Li, W.; Wang, C.X.; Xie, G.B.; Zhou, X.M.; Shi, J.X.;
Zhou, M.L. Astaxanthin offers neuroprotection and reduces neuroinflammation in experimental
subarachnoid hemorrhage. J. Surg. Res. 2014, 192, 206–213.
21. Zhang, X.S.; Zhang, X.; Wu, Q.; Li, W.; Zhang, Q.R.; Wang, C.X.; Zhou, X.M.; Li, H.; Shi, J.X.;
Zhou, M.L. Astaxanthin alleviates early brain injury following subarachnoid hemorrhage in rats:
Possible involvement of Akt/bad signaling. Mar. Drugs 2014, 12, 4291–4310.
22. Higuera-Ciapara, I.; Felix-Valenzuela, L.; Goycoolea, F.M. Astaxanthin: A review of its
chemistry and applications. Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr. 2006, 46, 185–196.
Mar. Drugs 2015, 13 12
23. Hussein, G.; Nakamura, M.; Zhao, Q.; Iguchi, T.; Goto, H.; Sankawa, U.; Watanabe, H.
Antihypertensive and neuroprotective effects of astaxanthin in experimental animals.
Biol. Pharm. Bull. 2005, 28, 47–52.
24. Stahl, W.; Sies, H. Bioactivity and protective effects of natural carotenoids. Biochim. Biophys.
Acta 2005, 1740, 101–107.
25. Guerin, M.; Huntley, M.E.; Olaizola, M. Haematococcus astaxanthin: Applications for human
health and nutrition. Trends Biotechnol. 2003, 21, 210–216.
26. Jyonouchi, H.; Sun, S.; Gross, M. Effect of carotenoids on in vitro immunoglobulin production
by human peripheral blood mononuclear cells: Astaxanthin, a carotenoid without vitamin A
activity, enhances in vitro immunoglobulin production in response to a T-dependent stimulant
and antigen. Nutr. Cancer 1995, 23, 171–183.
27. Yuan, J.P.; Chen, F. Hydrolysis kinetics of astaxanthin esters and stability of astaxanthin of
Haematococcus pluvialis during saponification. J. Agric. Food Chem. 1999, 47, 31–35.
28. Yuan, J.P.; Peng, J.; Yin, K.; Wang, J.H. Potential health-promoting effects of astaxanthin:
A high-value carotenoid mostly from microalgae. Mol. Nutr. Food Res. 2011, 55, 150–165.
29. Okada, Y.; Ishikura, M.; Maoka, T. Bioavailability of astaxanthin in Haematococcus algal
extract: The effects of timing of diet and smoking habits. Biosci. Biotechnol. Biochem. 2009, 73,
30. Coral-Hinostroza, G.N.; Ytrestoyl, T.; Ruyter, B.; Bjerkeng, B. Plasma appearance of unesterified
astaxanthin geometrical E/Z and optical R/S isomers in men given single doses of a mixture
of optical 3 and 3′R/S isomers of astaxanthin fatty acyl diesters. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. C
Toxicol. Pharmacol. 2004, 139, 99–110.
31. Kistler, A.; Liechti, H.; Pichard, L.; Wolz, E.; Oesterhelt, G.; Hayes, A.; Maurel, P. Metabolism
and CYP-inducer properties of astaxanthin in man and primary human hepatocytes. Arch. Toxicol.
2002, 75, 665–675.
32. Parker, R.S. Absorption, metabolism, and transport of carotenoids. FASEB J. 1996, 10, 542–551.
33. Rao, A.R.; Reddy, R.L.R.; Baskaran, V.; Sarada, R.; Ravishankar, G.A. Characterization of
microalgal carotenoids by mass spectrometry and their bioavailability and antioxidant properties
elucidated in rat model. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2010, 58, 8553–8559.
34. Stewart, J.S.; Lignell, A.; Pettersson, A.; Elfving, E.; Soni, M.G. Safety assessment of
astaxanthin-rich microalgae biomass: Acute and subchronic toxicity studies in rats.
Food. Chem. Toxicol. 2008, 46, 3030–3036.
35. Spiller, G.A.; Dewell, A. Safety of an astaxanthin-rich Haematococcus pluvialis algal extract:
A randomized clinical trial. J. Med. Food 2003, 6, 51–56.
36. Satoh, A.; Tsuji, S.; Okada, Y.; Murakami, N.; Urami, M.; Nakagawa, K.; Ishikura, M.;
Katagiri, M.; Koga, Y.; Shirasawa, T. Preliminary Clinical Evaluation of Toxicity and Efficacy
of A New Astaxanthin-Rich Haematococcus Pluvialis Extract. J. Clin. Biochem. Nutr. 2009, 44,
37. Katagiri, M.; Satoh, A.; Tsuji, S.; Shirasawa, T. Effects of astaxanthin-rich Haematococcus
pluvialis extract on cognitive function: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.
J. Clin. Biochem. Nutr. 2012, 51, 102–107.
Mar. Drugs 2015, 13 13
38. Kidd, P. Astaxanthin, cell membrane nutrient with diverse clinical benefits and anti-aging
potential. Altern. Med. Rev. 2011, 16, 355–364.
39. Yamagishi, R.; Aihara, M. Neuroprotective effect of astaxanthin against rat retinal ganglion cell
death under various stresses that induce apoptosis and necrosis. Mol. Vis. 2014, 20, 1796–1805.
40. Gasche, Y.; Copin, J.C.; Sugawara, T.; Fujimura, M.; Chan, P.H. Matrix metalloproteinase
inhibition prevents oxidative stress-associated blood-brain barrier disruption after transient focal
cerebral ischemia. J. Cereb. Blood Flow Metab. 2001, 21, 1393–400.
41. Giasson, B.I.; Duda, J.E.; Murray, I.V.; Chen, Q.; Souza, J.M.; Hurtig, H.I.; Ischiropoulos, H.;
Trojanowski, J.Q.; Lee, V.M. Oxidative damage linked to neurodegeneration by selective
alpha-synuclein nitration in synucleinopathy lesions. Science 2000, 290, 985–989.
42. Wu, D.C.; Teismann, P.; Tieu, K.; Vila, M.; Jackson-Lewis, V.; Ischiropoulos, H.; Przedborski, S.
NADPH oxidase mediates oxidative stress in the 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine
model of Parkinson’s disease. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2003, 100, 6145–6150.
43. Valko, M.; Leibfritz, D.; Moncol, J.; Cronin, M.T.; Mazur, M.; Telser, J. Free radicals and
antioxidants in normal physiological functions and human disease. Int. J. Biochem. Cell Biol.
2007, 39, 44–84.
44. Jilani, K.E.B.; Panee, J.; He, Q.; Berry, M.J.; Li, P.A. Overexpression of selenoprotein H reduces
Ht22 neuronal cell death after UVB irradiation by preventing superoxide formation.
Int. J. Biol. Sci. 2007, 3, 198–204.
45. Kamsler, A.; Segal, M. Hydrogen peroxide as a diffusible signal molecule in synaptic plasticity.
Mol. Neurobiol. 2004, 29, 167–178.
46. Fridovich, I. Superoxide radical and superoxide dismutases. Annu. Rev. Biochem. 1995, 64,
47. Sutton, V.R.; Mettert, E.L.; Beinert, H.; Kiley, P.J. Kinetic analysis of the oxidative conversion
of the [4Fe-4S]2+ cluster of FNR to a [2Fe-2S]2+ Cluster. J. Bacteriol. 2004, 186, 8018–8025.
48. Tripathi, D.N.; Jena, G.B. Intervention of astaxanthin against cyclophosphamide-induced
oxidative stress and DNA damage: A study in mice. Chem. Biol. Interact. 2009, 180, 398–406.
49. Stahl, W.; Sies, H. Antioxidant activity of carotenoids. Mol. Asp. Med. 2003, 24, 345–351.
50. Naito, Y.; Uchiyama, K.; Aoi, W.; Hasegawa, G.; Nakamura, N.; Yoshida, N.; Maoka, T.;
Takahashi, J.; Yoshikawa, T. Prevention of diabetic nephropathy by treatment with astaxanthin in
diabetic db/db mice. Biofactors 2004, 20, 49–59.
51. Camera, E.; Mastrofrancesco, A.; Fabbri, C.; Daubrawa, F.; Picardo, M.; Sies, H.; Stahl, W.
Astaxanthin, canthaxanthin and beta-carotene differently affect UVA-induced oxidative damage
and expression of oxidative stress-responsive enzymes. Exp. Dermatol. 2009, 18, 222–231.
52. Nishigaki, I.; Rajendran, P.; Venugopal, R.; Ekambaram, G.; Sakthisekaran, D.; Nishigaki, Y.
Cytoprotective role of astaxanthin against glycated protein/iron chelate-induced toxicity in
human umbilical vein endothelial cells. Phytother. Res. 2010, 24, 54–59.
53. Augusti, P.R.; Conterato, G.M.; Somacal, S.; Sobieski, R.; Spohr, P.R.; Torres, J.V.;
Charao, M.F.; Moro, A.M.; Rocha, M.P.; Garcia, S.C.; et al. Effect of astaxanthin on kidney
function impairment and oxidative stress induced by mercuric chloride in rats. Food Chem. Toxicol.
2008, 46, 212–219.
Mar. Drugs 2015, 13 14
54. Nakajima, Y.; Inokuchi, Y.; Shimazawa, M.; Otsubo, K.; Ishibashi, T.; Hara, H. Astaxanthin,
a dietary carotenoid, protects retinal cells against oxidative stress in vitro and in mice in vivo.
J. Pharm. Pharmacol. 2008, 60, 1365–1374.
55. Tripathi, D.N.; Jena, G.B. Astaxanthin intervention ameliorates cyclophosphamide-induced
oxidative stress, DNA damage and early hepatocarcinogenesis in rat: Role of Nrf2, p53, p38 and
phase-II enzymes. Mutat. Res. 2010, 696, 69–80.
56. Li, Z.; Dong, X.; Liu, H.; Chen, X.; Shi, H.; Fan, Y.; Hou, D.; Zhang, X. Astaxanthin protects
ARPE-19 cells from oxidative stress via upregulation of Nrf2-regulated phase II enzymes
through activation of PI3K/Akt. Mol. Vis. 2013, 19, 1656–1666.
57. Lee, D.H.; Lee, Y.J.; Kwon, K.H. Neuroprotective Effects of Astaxanthin in Oxygen-Glucose
Deprivation in SH-SY5Y Cells and Global Cerebral Ischemia in Rat. J. Clin. Biochem. Nutr.
2010, 47, 121–129.
58. Wu, Q.; Zhang, X.S.; Wang, H.D.; Zhang, X.; Yu, Q.; Li, W.; Zhou, M.L.; Wang, X.L.
Astaxanthin activates nuclear factor erythroid-related factor 2 and the antioxidant responsive
element (Nrf2-ARE) pathway in the brain after subarachnoid hemorrhage in rats and attenuates
early brain injury. Mar. Drugs 2014, 12, 6125–6141.
59. Wang, H.Q.; Sun, X.B.; Xu, Y.X.; Zhao, H.; Zhu, Q.Y.; Zhu, C.Q. Astaxanthin upregulates
heme oxygenase-1 expression through ERK1/2 pathway and its protective effect against
beta-amyloid-induced cytotoxicity in SH-SY5Y cells. Brain Res. 2010, 1360, 159–167.
60. Motterlini, R.; Green, C.J.; Foresti, R. Regulation of heme oxygenase-1 by redox signals
involving nitric oxide. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 2002, 4, 615–624.
61. Bae, J.W.; Kim, M.J.; Jang, C.G.; Lee, S.Y. Protective effects of heme oxygenase-1 against
MPP(+)-induced cytotoxicity in PC-12 cells. Neurol. Sci. 2010, 31, 307–313.
62. Ye, Q.; Huang, B.; Zhang, X.; Zhu, Y.; Chen, X. Astaxanthin protects against MPP(+)-induced
oxidative stress in PC12 cells via the HO-1/NOX2 axis. BMC Neurosci. 2012, 13, 156.
63. Ye, Q.; Zhang, X.; Huang, B.; Zhu, Y.; Chen, X. Astaxanthin suppresses MPP(+)-induced
oxidative damage in PC12 cells through a Sp1/NR1 signaling pathway. Mar. Drugs 2013, 11,
64. Turrin, N.P.; Rivest, S. Molecular and cellular immune mediators of neuroprotection.
Mol. Neurobiol. 2006, 34, 221–242.
65. Brown, G.C.; Neher, J.J. Inflammatory neurodegeneration and mechanisms of microglial killing
of neurons. Mol. Neurobiol. 2010, 41, 242–247.
66. Lucas, S.M.; Rothwell, N.J.; Gibson, R.M. The role of inflammation in CNS injury and disease.
Br. J. Pharmacol. 2006, 147, S232–S240.
67. Ohgami, K.; Shiratori, K.; Kotake, S.; Nishida, T.; Mizuki, N.; Yazawa, K.; Ohno, S. Effects of
astaxanthin on lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation in vitro and in vivo. Investig. Ophthalmol.
Vis. Sci. 2003, 44, 2694–2701.
68. Suzuki, Y.; Ohgami, K.; Shiratori, K.; Jin, X.H.; Ilieva, I.; Koyama, Y.; Yazawa, K.; Yoshida, K.;
Kase, S.; Ohno, S. Suppressive effects of astaxanthin against rat endotoxin-induced uveitis by
inhibiting the NF-κB signaling pathway. Exp. Eye Res. 2006, 82, 275–281.
69. Ghosh, S.; May, M.J.; Kopp, E.B. NF- κB and Rel proteins: Evolutionarily conserved mediators
of immune responses. Annu. Rev. Immunol. 1998, 16, 225–260.
Mar. Drugs 2015, 13 15
70. Yamamoto, Y.; Yin, M.J.; Gaynor, R.B. IkappaB kinase alpha (IKKalpha) regulation of IKKbeta
kinase activity. Mol. Cell. Biol. 2000, 20, 3655–3666.
71. Poyet, J.L.; Srinivasula, S.M.; Lin, J.H.; Fernandes-Alnemri, T.; Yamaoka, S.; Tsichlis, P.N.;
Alnemri, E.S. Activation of the Ikappa B kinases by RIP via IKKgamma /NEMO-mediated
oligomerization. J. Biol. Chem. 2000, 275, 37966–37977.
72. Shao, A.W.; Wu, H.J.; Chen, S.; Ammar, A.B.; Zhang, J.M.; Hong, Y. Resveratrol attenuates
early brain injury after subarachnoid hemorrhage through inhibition of NF-kappaB-dependent
inflammatory/MMP-9 pathway. CNS Neurosci. Ther. 2014, 20, 182–185.
73. Bhuvaneswari, S.; Yogalakshmi, B.; Sreeja, S.; Anuradha, C.V. Astaxanthin reduces hepatic
endoplasmic reticulum stress and nuclear factor-kappaB-mediated inflammation in high fructose
and high fat diet-fed mice. Cell Stress Chaperones 2014, 19, 183–191.
74. Speranza, L.; Pesce, M.; Patruno, A.; Franceschelli, S.; de Lutiis, M.A.; Grilli, A.; Felaco, M.
Astaxanthin treatment reduced oxidative induced pro-inflammatory cytokines secretion in U937:
SHP-1 as a novel biological target. Mar. Drugs 2012, 10, 890–899.
75. Izumi-Nagai, K.; Nagai, N.; Ohgami, K.; Satofuka, S.; Ozawa, Y.; Tsubota, K.; Ohno, S.;
Oike, Y.; Ishida, S. Inhibition of choroidal neovascularization with an anti-inflammatory
carotenoid astaxanthin. Investig. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2008, 49, 1679–1685.
76. Bennedsen, M.; Wang, X.; Willen, R.; Wadstrom, T.; Andersen, L.P. Treatment of H. pylori
infected mice with antioxidant astaxanthin reduces gastric inflammation, bacterial load and
modulates cytokine release by splenocytes. Immunol. Lett. 1999, 70, 185–189.
77. Yasui, Y.; Hosokawa, M.; Mikami, N.; Miyashita, K.; Tanaka, T. Dietary astaxanthin inhibits
colitis and colitis-associated colon carcinogenesis in mice via modulation of the inflammatory
cytokines. Chem. Biol. Interact. 2011, 193, 79–87.
78. Lee, S.J.; Bai, S.K.; Lee, K.S.; Namkoong, S.; Na, H.J.; Ha, K.S.; Han, J.A.; Yim, S.V.;
Chang, K.; Kwon, Y.G.; et al. Astaxanthin inhibits nitric oxide production and inflammatory
gene expression by suppressing I(kappa)B kinase-dependent NF-kappaB activation. Mol. Cells
2003, 16, 97–105.
79. Terazawa, S.; Nakajima, H.; Shingo, M.; Niwano, T.; Imokawa, G. Astaxanthin attenuates the
UVB-induced secretion of prostaglandin E2 and interleukin-8 in human keratinocytes by
interrupting MSK1 phosphorylation in a ROS depletion-independent manner. Exp. Dermatol.
2012, 21, S11–S17.
80. Chew, B.P.; Wong, M.W.; Park, J.S.; Wong, T.S. Dietary beta-carotene and astaxanthin but not
canthaxanthin stimulate splenocyte function in mice. Anticancer Res. 1999, 19, 5223–5227.
81. Chew, B.P.; Mathison, B.D.; Hayek, M.G.; Massimino, S.; Reinhart, G.A.; Park, J.S.
Dietary astaxanthin enhances immune response in dogs. Vet. Immunol. Immunopathol. 2011,
82. Jyonouchi, H.; Sun, S.; Iijima, K.; Gross, M.D. Antitumor activity of astaxanthin and its mode of
action. Nutr. Cancer 2000, 36, 59–65.
83. Kurihara, H.; Koda, H.; Asami, S.; Kiso, Y.; Tanaka, T. Contribution of the antioxidative
property of astaxanthin to its protective effect on the promotion of cancer metastasis in mice
treated with restraint stress. Life Sci. 2002, 70, 2509–2520.
Mar. Drugs 2015, 13 16
84. Park, J.S.; Chyun, J.H.; Kim, Y.K.; Line, L.L.; Chew, B.P. Astaxanthin decreased oxidative
stress and inflammation and enhanced immune response in humans. Nutr. Metab. (Lond.) 2010,
85. Balietti, M.; Giannubilo, S.R.; Giorgetti, B.; Solazzi, M.; Turi, A.; Casoli, T.; Ciavattini, A.;
Fattorettia, P. The effect of astaxanthin on the aging rat brain: Gender-related differences in
modulating inflammation. J. Sci. Food Agric. 2015, doi:10.1002/jsfa.7131.
86. Elmore, S. Apoptosis: A review of programmed cell death. Toxicol. Pathol. 2007, 35, 495–516.
87. Wu, H.J.; Pu, J.L.; Krafft, P.R.; Zhang, J.M.; Chen, S. The molecular mechanisms between
autophagy and apoptosis: Potential role in central nervous system disorders. Cell. Mol. Neurobiol.
2015, 35, 85–99.
88. Nijhawan, D.; Honarpour, N.; Wang, X. Apoptosis in neural development and disease.
Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 2000, 23, 73–87.
89. Shao, A.; Wang, Z.; Wu, H.; Dong, X.; Li, Y.; Tu, S.; Tang, J.; Zhao, M.; Zhang, J.; Hong, Y.
Enhancement of Autophagy by Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor Trichostatin A Ameliorates
Neuronal Apoptosis After Subarachnoid Hemorrhage in Rats. Mol. Neurobiol. 2014,
90. Kim, J.H.; Choi, W.; Lee, J.H.; Jeon, S.J.; Choi, Y.H.; Kim, B.W.; Chang, H.I.; Nam, S.W.
Astaxanthin inhibits H2O2-mediated apoptotic cell death in mouse neural progenitor cells via
modulation of P38 and MEK signaling pathways. J. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 2009, 19, 1355–1363.
91. Dong, L.Y.; Jin, J.; Lu, G.; Kang, X.L. Astaxanthin attenuates the apoptosis of retinal ganglion
cells in db/db mice by inhibition of oxidative stress. Mar. Drugs 2013, 11, 960–974.
92. Guo, S.X.; Zhou, H.L.; Huang, C.L.; You, C.G.; Fang, Q.; Wu, P.; Wang, X.G.; Han, C.M.
Astaxanthin attenuates early acute kidney injury following severe burns in rats by ameliorating
oxidative stress and mitochondrial-related apoptosis. Mar. Drugs 2015, 13, 2105–2123.
93. Lu, Y.P.; Liu, S.Y.; Sun, H.; Wu, X.M.; Li, J.J.; Zhu, L. Neuroprotective effect of astaxanthin on
H(2)O(2)-induced neurotoxicity in vitro and on focal cerebral ischemia in vivo. Brain Res. 2010,
94. Ikeda, Y.; Tsuji, S.; Satoh, A.; Ishikura, M.; Shirasawa, T.; Shimizu, T. Protective effects of
astaxanthin on 6-hydroxydopamine-induced apoptosis in human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells.
J. Neurochem. 2008, 107, 1730–1740.
95. Gomez-Lazaro, M.; Galindo, M.F.; Concannon, C.G.; Segura, M.F.; Fernandez-Gomez, F.J.;
Llecha, N.; Comella, J.X.; Prehn, J.H.; Jordan, J. 6-hydroxydopamine activates the mitochondrial
apoptosis pathway through p38 MAPK-mediated, p53-independent activation of Bax and PUMA.
J. Neurochem. 2008, 104, 1599–1612.
96. Lee, D.H.; Kim, C.S.; Lee, Y.J. Astaxanthin protects against MPTP/MPP+-induced mitochondrial
dysfunction and ROS production in vivo and in vitro. Food Chem. Toxicol. 2011, 49, 271–280.
97. Liu, X.; Shibata, T.; Hisaka, S.; Osawa, T. Astaxanthin inhibits reactive oxygen species-mediated
cellular toxicity in dopaminergic SH-SY5Y cells via mitochondria-targeted protective mechanism.
Brain Res. 2009, 1254, 18–27.
98. Song, X.D.; Zhang, J.J.; Wang, M.R.; Liu, W.B.; Gu, X.B.; Lv, C.J. Astaxanthin
induces mitochondria-mediated apoptosis in rat hepatocellular carcinoma CBRH-7919 cells.
Biol. Pharm. Bull. 2011, 34, 839–844.
Mar. Drugs 2015, 13 17
99. Song, X.; Wang, M.; Zhang, L.; Zhang, J.; Wang, X.; Liu, W.; Gu, X.; Lv, C. Changes in cell
ultrastructure and inhibition of JAK1/STAT3 signaling pathway in CBRH-7919 cells with
astaxanthin. Toxicol. Mech. Methods 2012, 22, 679–686.
100. Kavitha, K.; Kowshik, J.; Kishore, T.K.; Baba, A.B.; Nagini, S. Astaxanthin inhibits NF-kappaB
and Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathways via inactivation of Erk/MAPK and PI3K/Akt to induce
intrinsic apoptosis in a hamster model of oral cancer. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 2013, 1830,
© 2015 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article
distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license