Antidiabetic effects of betulinic acid mediated by the activation of the AMP-activated protein kinase pathway.
PLoS One. 2021 ;16(4):e0249109. Epub 2021 Apr 5. PMID: 33819291
Betulinic acid (BA) is a naturally arising pentacyclic triterpenoid that has anti-malarial, anti-retroviral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer biological effects. More recently, it has been reported to possess anti-obesity activity mediated by the activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). We further investigated antidiabetic activity of BA in mouse tissues at the cellular and systemic levels. We found that BA stimulated AMPK in a similar fashion to the known AMPK activators, such as 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-1-β-D-ribofuranoside and metformin. Notably, the level of glucose uptake by BA was not altered by wortmannin, suggesting that this activation did not depend on phosphoinositide 3-kinase. Furthermore, BA diminished blood glucose levels in alloxane-treated ICR mice and in untreated mice during the glucose tolerance test. BA also stimulated mRNA expression of glucose transporter 4, which could partly explain increased glucose uptake. BA also increased AS160 phosphorylation by insulin-independent mechanisms in the extensor digitorum longus muscle. These results indicate that BA may serve as a promising therapeutic agent for diabetes by activating AMPK, like metformin. Notably, BA also enhanced mouse endurance capacity, indicating that it also affects metabolic regulation in addition to its antidiabetic activity.