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Characterization of the insulin signalling pathways in skeletal muscle and skin of streptozotocin-induced diabetic male Sprague-Dawley rats : the effects of oleanolic acid.

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Treatment of diabetes mellitus is mainly focused on glycaemic control regulated by insulin and takes place in insulin sensitive tissues like skeletal muscle which accounts for 75% of glucose metabolism. Plant derived compounds that have anti-diabetic potential are currently being investigated for diabetes treatment as they are cheap and non-toxic. Oleanolic acid (OA), a triterpene found in a wide variety of plants has been shown to have anti-diabetic effects but its mechanism of action, especially on the insulin signalling cascade has not been fully elucidated. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of OA on the PI3K/Akt insulin signalling cascade in skeletal muscle and skin of streptozotocin induced diabetic male Sprague-Dawley rats. Male Sprague-Dawley rats (non-diabetic and diabetic) were treated with insulin (4IU/ kg bw), OA (80 mg/kg bw) and a combination of OA + insulin in an acute and sub-chronic study. The study showed that OA does not reduce blood glucose levels in type 1 diabetic rats but enhances insulin stimulated hypoglycaemic effects. In the acute study OA was shown to activate Akt and dephosphorylate GS in skeletal muscle of streptozotocin induced diabetic rats. In the sub-chronic study OA and OA + insulin increased expression of GS in skeletal muscle of diabetic rats. GP expression was decreased by OA and OA + insulin treatments in skeletal muscle whilst in skin it was increased by both treatments. OA increased both GS and GP in skeletal muscle whilst in skin they were decreased. OA + insulin treatment increased GS and decreased GP activities in skeletal muscle and increased activity of both enzymes in skin of diabetic rats. OA increased the amount of glycogen in both muscle and skin whilst OA + insulin reduced the amount of glycogen. OA and OA + insulin treatment showed some protective effects against liver and muscle damage as there were reductions in serum LDH, ALT and AST levels. In conclusion, oleanolic acid in synergy with insulin can enhance activation of the insulin signalling pathway and there was evidence of OA activation of insulin signaling enzymes independent of insulin.


Thesis (M.Sc.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2013.


Diabetes--South Africa., Insulin., Medicinal plants--South Africa., Sprague Dawley rats--South Africa., Streptozotocin., Theses--Biochemistry.