Thursday 3 March 2022

Morus alba L. (Sangzhi) Alkaloids Promote Insulin Secretion, Restore Diabetic β-Cell Function by Preventing Dedifferentiation and Apoptosis

 Front. Pharmacol.,  Sec. Ethnopharmacology, 2022

Morus alba L. (Sangzhi) alkaloids (SZ-A), extracted from the Chinese herb Morus alba L. (mulberry twig), have been shown to ameliorate hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes and have been approved for diabetes treatment in the clinic. However, their versatile pharmacologic effects and regulatory mechanisms are not yet completely understood.

This study explored the protective effects of SZ-A on islet β cells and the underlying mechanism.

Type 2 diabetic KKAy mice were orally administered SZ-A (100 or 200 mg/kg, once daily) for 11 weeks, and oral glucose tolerance, insulin tolerance, intraperitoneal glucose tolerance and hyperglycemia clamp tests were carried out to evaluate the potency of SZ-A in vivo. The morphology and β-cell dedifferentiation marker of KKAy mouse islets were detected via immunofluorescence. The effect of SZ-A on glucose-stimulated insulin secretion was investigated in both the islet β-cell line MIN6 and mouse primary islets. Potential regulatory signals and pathways in insulin secretion were explored, and cell proliferation assays and apoptosis TUNEL staining were performed on SZ-A-treated MIN6 cells.

SZ-A alleviated hyperglycemia and glucose intolerance in type 2 diabetic KKAy mice and improved the function and morphology of diabetic islets. In both MIN6 cells and primary islets, SZ-A promoted insulin secretion. At a normal glucose level, SZ-A decreased AMPKα phosphorylation, and at high glucose, SZ-A augmented the cytosolic calcium concentration. Additionally, SZ-A downregulated the β-cell dedifferentiation marker ALDH1A3 and upregulated β-cell identifying genes, such as Ins1, Ins2, Nkx2.2 and Pax4 in KKAy mice islets. At the same time, SZ-A attenuated glucolipotoxicity-induced apoptosis in MIN6 cells, and inhibited Erk1/2 phosphorylation and caspase 3 activity. The major active fractions of SZ-A, namely DNJ, FAG and DAB, participated in the above regulatory effects.

Our findings suggest that SZ-A promotes insulin secretion in islet β cells and ameliorates β-cell dysfunction and mass reduction under diabetic conditions both in vivo and in vitro, providing additional supportive evidence for the clinical application of SZ-A.