Osthole is an agent isolated from Cnidium monnieri (L.) Cusson and Angelica pubescens and has been used to treat several diseases, including metabolic syndromes. To investigate the hypoglycemic effects of osthole in diabetic db/db mice and the underlying mechanisms of these effects by in vitro assay, diabetic db/db mice and cell experiments were utilized to understand its possible effects. Osthole significantly activated both PPARα and PPARγ in a dose-dependent manner based on the results of the transition transfection assay. The activation of PPARα and PPARγ by osthole also resulted in an increase in the expression of PPAR target genes such as PPAR itself, adipose fatty acid-binding protein 2, acyl-CoA synthetases, and carnitine palmitoyltransferase-1A. In vitro results suggested that osthole might be a dual PPARα/γ activator, but its chemical structure differed from that of the thiazolidinedione class of antidiabetic drugs. In addition, osthole markedly activated the AMP-activated protein kinase and its downstream acetyl CoA carboxylase molecules by increasing their phosphorylation levels. Finally, obese diabetic db/db mice were treated with osthole by different administered routes, and osthole was found to markedly reduce blood glucose level. Interestingly, osthole did not reduce the blood insulin or lipid levels, two phenomena that did occur in animals treated with insulin sensitizers like PPAR agonists. These results suggest that osthole can alleviate hyperglycemia and could be potentially developed into a novel drug for treatment of diabetes mellitus.
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