A novel protein, designated as DOI, isolated from the Chinese yam (Dioscorea opposita Thunb.) could be the first protein drug for the treatment of menopausal syndrome and an alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which is known to have undesirable side effects. DOI is an acid- and thermo-stable protein with a distinctive N-terminal sequence Gly-Ile-Gly-Lys-Ile-Thr-Thr-Tyr-Trp-Gly-Gln-Tyr-Ser-Asp-Glu-Pro-Ser-Leu-Thr-Glu. DOI was found to stimulate estradiol biosynthesis in rat ovarian granulosa cells; induce estradiol and progesterone secretion in 16- to 18-month-old female Sprague Dawley rats by upregulating expressions of follicle-stimulating hormone receptor and ovarian aromatase; counteract the progression of osteoporosis and augment bone mineral density; and improve cognitive functioning by upregulating protein expressions of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and TrkB receptors in the prefrontal cortex. Furthermore, DOI did not stimulate the proliferation of breast cancer and ovarian cancer cells, which suggest it could be a more efficacious and safer alternative to HRT.
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