Neuroprotective Properties of Cardoon Leaves Extracts against Neurodevelopmental Deficits in an In Vitro Model of Rett Syndrome Depend on the Extraction Method and Harvest Time

Spennato, Mariachiara; Roggero, Ottavia Maria;Varriale, Simona; Asaro, Fioretta; Cortesi, Angelo; Kašpar, Jan; Tongiorgi, Enrico; Pezzella, Cinzia; Gardossi, Lucia

Molecules; Volume 27, Issue 24; 2022; 8772, DOI 10.3390/molecules27248772



This study investigates the bioactive properties of different extracts of cardoon leaves in rescuing neuronal development arrest in an in vitro model of Rett syndrome (RTT). Samples were obtained from plants harvested at different maturity stages and extracted with two different methodologies, namely Naviglio® and supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO2). While scCO2 extracts more hydrophobic fractions, the Naviglio® method extracts phenolic compounds and less hydrophobic components. Only the scCO2 cardoon leaves extract obtained from plants harvested in spring induced a significant rescue of neuronal atrophy in RTT neurons, while the scCO2 extract from the autumn harvest stimulated dendrite outgrowth in Wild-Type (WT) neurons. The scCO2 extracts were the richest in squalene, 3ß-taraxerol and lupeol, with concentrations in autumn harvest doubling those in spring harvest. The Naviglio® extract was rich in cynaropicrin and exerted a toxic effect at 20 µM on both WT and RTT neurons. When cynaropicrin, squalene, lupeol and 3ß-taraxerol were tested individually, no positive effect was observed, whereas a significant neurotoxicity of cynaropicrin and lupeol was evident. In conclusion, cardoon leaves extracts with high content of hydrophobic bioactive molecules and low cynaropicrin and lupeol concentrations have pharmacological potential to stimulate neuronal development in RTT and WT neurons in vitro.