Circulating human serum metabolites derived from the intake of a saffron extract (Safr’Inside™) protect neurons from oxidative stress: Consideration for depressive disorders

Fabien Wauquier, Line Boutin-Wittrant, Line Pourtau, David Gaudout, Benjamin Moras, Adeline Vignault, Camille Monchaux De Oliveira, Julien Gabaston, Carole Vaysse, Karène Bertrand, Hélène Abrous, Lucile Capuron, Nathalie Castanon, David Vauzour, Véronique Roux, Nicolas Macian, Gisèle Pickering, Yohann Wittrant

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Increases in oxidative stress have been reported to play a central role in the vulnerability to depression, and antidepressant drugs may reduce increased oxidative stress in patients. Among the plants exerting anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, saffron, a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, is also known for its positive effects on depression, potentially through its SSRI-like properties. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying these effects and their health benefits for humans are currently unclear. Using an original ex vivo clinical approach, we demonstrated for the first time that the circulating human metabolites produced following saffron intake (Safr’Inside™ ) protect human neurons from oxidative-stress-induced neurotoxicity by preserving cell viability and increasing BNDF production. In particular, the metabolites significantly stimulated both dopamine and serotonin release. In addition, the saffron’s metabolites were also able to protect serotonergic tone by inhibiting the expression of the serotonin transporter SERT and down-regulating serotonin metabolism. Altogether, these data provide new biochemical insights into the mechanisms underlying the beneficial impact of saffron on neuronal viability and activity in humans, in the context of oxidative stress related to depression.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1511
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2022


  • BDNF
  • brain
  • clinical trial
  • crocetin
  • depression
  • dopamine
  • mental health
  • serotonin
  • SERT
  • SH-SY5Y

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