Epidemiological studies have revealed a significantly reduced risk of Parkinson's disease (PD) among coffee and tobacco users, although it is unclear whether these correlations reflect neuroprotective/symptomatic effects of these agents or preexisting differences in the brains of tobacco and coffee users. Here, we report that coffee and tobacco, but not caffeine or nicotine, are neuroprotective in fly PD models. We further report that decaffeinated coffee and nicotine-free tobacco are as neuroprotective as their caffeine and nicotine-containing counterparts and that the neuroprotective effects of decaffeinated coffee and nicotine-free tobacco are also evident in Drosophila models of Alzheimer's disease and polyglutamine disease. Finally, we report that the neuroprotective effects of decaffeinated coffee and nicotine-free tobacco require the cytoprotective transcription factor Nrf2 and that a known Nrf2 activator in coffee, cafestol, is also able to confer neuroprotection in our fly models of PD. Our findings indicate that coffee and tobacco contain Nrf2-activating compounds that may account for the reduced risk of PD among coffee and tobacco users. These compounds represent attractive candidates for therapeutic intervention in PD and perhaps other neurodegenerative diseases.
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