Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is a chronic disease characterized by hyperglycemia that can lead to long-term complications including heart diseases, stroke, retinopathy, and renal failure. Treatment strategies include stimulating glucose uptake and controlling blood glucose level. Bofutsushosan (BOF) and Daisaikoto (DAI) are two herb-based kampo medicines that have been demonstrated to improve metabolism-associated disorders including obesity, hyperlipidemia, and nonalcoholic fatty liver. Given their bioactivities against metabolic syndromes, we explored in this study the effect of BOF and DAI extracts on glucose absorption and used them as source to identify phytochemical stimulator of glucose absorption. Glucose uptake and mechanistic studies were evaluated in differentiated C2C12 skeletal muscle cells, and HPLC analysis was used to determine the molecular bioactive constituents. Our results indicated that the ethanolic extracts of BOF and DAI (BOFEE and DAIEE, respectively) enhanced the glucose uptake ratio in the differentiated C2C12 cells, and further analysis identified the flavone baicalin as a major constituent capable of efficiently stimulating glucose absorption. Mechanistic studies revealed that the effect from baicalin involved the activation of IRS-1 and GLUT-4, and implicated the AMPK, PI3K/Akt, and MAPK/ERK signaling cascades. Due to its potency, we suggest that baicalin merit further evaluation as a potential candidate anti-hyperglycemic agent for the treatment and management of T2DM.
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