Withaferin A exerts an anti-obesity effect by increasing energy expenditure through thermogenic gene expression in high-fat diet-fed obese mice

Da-Hye Lee, So-Hyun Park, Eunyoung Lee, Hyo-Deok Seo, Jiyun Ahn, Young-Jin Jang, Tae-Youl Ha, Seung Soon Im, Chang Hwa Jung
Phytomedicine 2020 December 30, 82: 153457

BACKGROUND: The enhancement of energy expenditure has attracted attention as a therapeutic target for the management of body weight. Withaferin A (WFA), a major constituent of Withania somnifera extract, has been reported to possess anti-obesity properties, however the underlying mechanism remains unknown.

PURPOSE: To investigate whether WFA exerts anti-obesity effects via increased energy expenditure, and if so, to characterize the underlying pathway.

METHODS: C57BL/6 J mice were fed a high-fat diet (HFD) for 10 weeks, and WFA was orally administered for 7 days. The oxygen consumption rate of mice was measured at 9 weeks using an OxyletPro™ system. Hematoxylin and eosin (H&E), immunohistochemistry, immunoblotting, and real-time PCR methods were used.

RESULTS: Treatment with WFA ameliorated HFD-induced obesity by increasing energy expenditure by improving of mitochondrial activity in brown adipose tissue (BAT) and promotion of subcutaneous white adipose tissue (scWAT) browning via increasing uncoupling protein 1 levels. WFA administration also significantly increased AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) phosphorylation in the BAT of obese mice. Additionally, WFA activated mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling, including p38/extracellular signal-regulated kinase MAPK, in both BAT and scWAT.

CONCLUSION: WFA enhances energy expenditure and ameliorates obesity via the induction of AMPK and activating p38/extracellular signal-regulated kinase MAPK, which triggers mitochondrial biogenesis and browning-related gene expression.

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