One of the hallmarks of Alzheimers disease is the accumulation of senile plaques composed of extra-cellular aggregates of beta-amyloid (Aβ) peptides. It is well established that at least in vitro, Aβ triggers apoptotic cell death via the activation of caspase-dependent and -independent cell death effectors, namely caspase-3 and apoptosis inducing factor (AIF), respectively. Epidemiological studies have reported that elderly people have a lower risk (up to 50%) of developing dementia if they regularly eat fruits and vegetables and drink tea and red wine (in moderation). Numerous studies indicate that polyphenols derived from these foods and beverages account for the observed neuroprotective effects. In particular, we have reported that polyphenols extracted from green tea (i.e. epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG) and red wine (i.e. resveratrol) block Aβ-induced hippocampal cell death, by at least partially inhibiting Aβ fibrillisation. It has been shown that polyphenols may also modulate caspase-dependent and -independent programmed cell death (PCD) pathways. Indeed, polyphenols including resveratrol, EGCG and luteolin significantly inhibit the activation of the key apoptotic executioner, caspase-3 and are able to modulate mitogen-activated protein kinases known to play an important role in neuronal apoptosis. Moreover, it has been reported that polyphenols may exert their anti-apoptotic action by inhibiting AIF release from mitochondria, thus providing new mechanism of action for polyphenols. This review aims to update the current knowledge regarding the differential effects of polyphenols on PCD pathways and discuss their putative neuroprotective action resulting from their capacity to modulate these pathways.
Keywords: AIF, Alzheimer's disease, caspases, epigallocatechin gallate, hippocampus, resveratrol, apoptosis, etiologic factors, MAPK activation