Korean J Anat.  2002 Apr;35(2):161-171.

Differential Effect of Capsaicin on the Cell Death in Primary Cultured Neurons

  • 1Department of Anatomy, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. jelee@yumc.yonsei.ac.kr
  • 2Department of BK21 Project for Medical Sciences, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.


Capsaicin, the pungent algesic substance of the red pepper is known to be a neurotoxic substance, interrupting the pain conducting pathway. The neurotoxic effects of capsaicin to adult animals were regarded to be limited to the peripheral nervous system. Several reports suggested that central nervous system could be changed after capsaicin administration to the adult rats. To determine the effect of capsaicin to central nervous system, morphologic changes and biochemical assay were investigated in mouse primary cultured CNS neuron. The susceptability of capsaicin differs throughout different parts of brain areas. Cerebral cortex and hippocampus were more sensitive, while striatum, thalamus and midbrain area were less sensitive to capsaicin. After capsaicin treatment, cortical and hippocampal neurons died in dose-and time-dependent manner. By observation of nuclear fragmentation of capsaicin treated neuron, it is thought that the type of cell death is apoptosis rather than necrosis. The capsaicin receptor- immunoreactive cells were observed in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus. It is consistent with area of damaged neuron. These results demonstrate that capsaicin induced the apoptosis through acting with capsaicin receptors; calcium influx due to activation of capsaicin receptor may induce apoptosis.


Capsaicin; Capsaicin receptor; CNS neuronal death; Apoptosis
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