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Mol Nutr Food Res. 2015 Feb;59(2):344-54. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201400399. Epub 2014 Dec 22.

Ursolic acid improves lipid and glucose metabolism in high-fat-fed C57BL/6J mice by activating peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha and hepatic autophagy.

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Department of Biotechnology, Graduate School of Life Sciences & Biotechnology, Korea University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.



This study investigated metabolic effects of ursolic acid (UA), a peroxisome proliferation-activated receptor (PPAR)-α activator, in vivo.


High-fat diet (HFD)-fed C57BL/6J mice were orally administered UA (50 or 200 mg/kg body weight) for 8 wk. UA reduced liver and adipose tissue mass, adipocyte size, and plasma leptin concentrations, plasma triglyceride and low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations, while it elevated the high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol and adiponectin concentrations significantly compared with controls. UA induced the expression of PPARα and its responsive genes involved in fatty acid uptake and β-oxidation in the livers, whereas genes involved in lipogenesis, including sterol regulatory element-binding proteins-1c, were downregulated. UA administration improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity significantly compared with the HFD-fed control livers. UA administration also activated hepatic autophagy as assessed by the expression of microtubule-associated protein 1A/1B-light chain 3 (LC3)-II and other key proteins in the autophagy pathway.


Our findings suggest that UA ameliorates lipid and glucose metabolism in HFD-fed mice primarily by the activation of PPARα and induction of the hepatic autophagy pathway. Thus, intake of UA in the diet or in an isolated form may ameliorate lipid and glucose metabolism.


Autophagy; Glucose metabolism; Lipid metabolism; PPARα; Ursolic acid

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