Graduate Program

Biological Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion

Fall 2020

Thesis Director

Britto P. Nathan

Thesis Committee Member

Thomas Canam

Thesis Committee Member

Gordon C. Tucker


Traditional herbal medicine is ingrained as a source of therapeutic compounds to medicate various diseases. The family Araliaceae (Ginseng family) is rich in traditional medicine species, such as Centella asiatica (CA). For many centuries, CA has been used by the indigenous Indian and Chinese in Ayurvedic and traditional medicine, respectively, to improve intelligence, learning, memory, and cognitive performance. Previous studies on cell culture and animal models supported the beneficial effects of CA on the nervous system. However, the exact composition of CA extract and its molecular mechanism that leads to neuroprotection is still unclear. We examined the effect of asiatic acid (AA) and madecassic acid (MA) on neuronal growth, and hypothesized that AA and MA, major neurite promoting factors in CA extract, would induce expression of genes involved in neurite outgrowth and survival. We tested this hypothesis by examining the effects of AA and MA on murine neuroblastoma cells, Neuro-2a (N2a). N2a cells were incubated for two days in a medium containing either 5 µM AA or MA in ethanol or ethanol alone (vehicle). Following incubation, various parameters of neurite outgrowth were measured using NeuronJ software. To explore the impact of AA, MA, and ethanol (vehicle) on neuronal gene expression, transcriptome analysis was used. The results demonstrated that AA and MA facilitate neuronal extension in N2a cultures, and that AA and MA samples had unique transcriptomes compared to the ethanol (vehicle). Furthermore, several of the predicted proteins from the core transcriptome of cells treated with AA and MA have the potential to be involved in neurite outgrowth and related functions.