The molecular mechanisms underlying arecoline-induced cardiac fibrosis in rats

Chang Wen Ku, Cecilia Hsuan Day, Hsiu Chung Ou, Tsung Jung Ho, Ray Jade Chen, Velmurugan Bharath Kumar, Wen Yuan Lin, Chih Yang Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The areca nut is one of the most commonly consumed psychoactive substances worldwide, with an estimated consumption by approximately 10% of the world's population, especially in some regions of South Asia, East Africa, and the tropical Pacific. Arecoline, the major areca nut alkaloid, has been classified as carcinogenic to humans as it adversely affects various organs, including the brain, heart, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and reproductive organs. Earlier studies have established a link between areca nut chewing and cardiac arrhythmias, and yet research pertaining to the mechanisms underlying cardiotoxicity caused by arecoline is still preliminary. The main purpose of this study is to test the hypothesis that arecoline causes cardiac fibrosis through transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β)/Smad-mediated signaling pathways. Male Wistar rats were injected intraperitoneally with low (5 mg/kg/day) or high (50 mg/kg/day) doses of arecoline for 3 weeks. Results from Masson's trichrome staining indicated that arecoline could induce cardiac fibrosis through collagen accumulation. Western blot analysis showed that TGF-β and p-Smad2/3 protein expression levels were markedly higher in the arecoline-injected rat hearts than in those of the control rats. Moreover, arecoline upregulated other fibrotic-related proteins, including SP1-mediated connective tissue growth factor expression. Tissue-type plasminogen activator and its inhibitor, plasminogen activator inhibitor, and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) 9 were upregulated, and the inhibitor of MMP9 was downregulated. This study provides novel insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying arecoline-induced cardiac fibrosis. Taken together, the areca nut is a harmful substance, and the detrimental effects of arecoline on the heart are similar to that caused by oral submucous fibrosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1182-1192
Number of pages11
JournalOpen Life Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2021


  • arecoline
  • cardiac fibrosis
  • MMP9
  • Smad
  • TGF-β

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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