Tetrahydrocurcumin ameliorates free fatty acid-induced hepatic steatosis and improves insulin resistance in HepG2 cells.
J Food Drug Anal. 2018 Jul ;26(3):1075-1085. Epub 2018 Feb 2. PMID: 29976400
Elevated levels of free fatty acids (FFAs) in the liver, resulting from either increased lipolysis or imbalanced FFAs flux, is a key pathogenic factor of hepatic steatosis. This study was conducted to examine the therapeutic effect of tetrahydrocurcumin (THC), a naturally occurring curcuminoid and a metabolite of curcumin, on oleic acid (OA)-induced steatosis in human hepatocellular carcinoma cells and to elucidate the underlying mechanism. HepG2 cells were incubated with OA to induce steatosis, and then treated with various concentrations of THC. The results showed that THC treatment significantly decreased lipid accumulation in OA-treated HepG2 cells, possibly, by inhibiting the expression of the lipogenic proteins, sterol regulatory element-binding protein 1 (SREBP-1c), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ), fatty acid synthase (FAS), and fatty acid-binding protein 4 (FABP4). Moreover, THC attenuated OA-induced hepatic lipogenesis in an adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK)-dependent manner, which was reversed by pretreatment with an AMPK inhibitor. THC promoted lipolysis and upregulated the expression of genes involved in β-oxidation. Glucose uptake and insulin signaling impaired in HepG2 cells incubated with OA were abated by THC treatment, including phosphorylation of the insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS-1)/phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt and downstream signaling pathways, forkhead box protein O1 (FOXO1) and glycogen synthase kinase 3 β (GSK3β), which are involved in gluconeogenesis and glycogen synthesis, respectively. Altogether, these results demonstrated the novel therapeutic benefit of THC against hepatic steatosis and, consequently, a potential treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).