The effects of crude saponin (SAP) and alkaloid (ALK) fractions of Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer on the detrimental effects of electroconvulsive shock (ECS) and scopolamine on passive avoidance response (PAR) were studied in male Sprague-Dawley rats, referring their effects on the neuronal injury and plasticity of hippocampus in response to electrolytic lesion of left entorhinal cortex (ECL). The detrimental ECS effect on PAR was attenuated by pre- and post-treatments with SAP and ALK, respectively, or by pretreatment with aminoguanidine (AG), an inhibitor of diamine oxidase and NO synthase. And the detrimental scopolamine effect on PAR was also inhibited by pre-treatment with ALK or AG, and by post- treatment with SAP or ALK, respectively. On the 7th day after ECL, the brain sections stained by cresyl violet and by acetylcholinesterase (AChE) histochemistry, respectively, showed the chromatolysis and numeral decrease of neurons and the reduction of AChE reactivity in the hippocampus CA1 area and to a lesser extent, in the dentate gyrus. The neuronal cell death of the CA1 area was significantly reduced by SAP, ALK, or AG, and the reduction of AChE reactivity was significantly attenuated by SAP or ALK and to a lesser extent by AG. These results suggests that the protective effect of ginseng SAP and ALK fractions on ECS- or scopolamine-induced impairment of PAR may be ascribed in part to preservation of hippocampal neurons, particularly cholinergic neurons.
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