Icariin is effective in the treatment of hyperlipidemia. To understand the effect of icariin on lipid metabolism, effects of icariin on PPARα and its target genes were investigated. Mice were treated orally with icariin at doses of 0, 100, 200, and 400 mg/kg, or clofibrate (500 mg/kg) for five days. Liver total RNA was isolated and the expressions of PPARα and lipid metabolism genes were examined. PPARα and its marker genes Cyp4a10 and Cyp4a14 were induced 2-4 fold by icariin, and 4-8 fold by clofibrate. The fatty acid (FA) binding and co-activator proteins Fabp1, Fabp4 and Acsl1 were increased 2-fold. The mRNAs of mitochondrial FA β-oxidation enzymes (Cpt1a, Acat1, Acad1 and Hmgcs2) were increased 2-3 fold. The mRNAs of proximal β-oxidation enzymes (Acox1, Ech1, and Ehhadh) were also increased by icariin and clofibrate. The expression of mRNAs for sterol regulatory element-binding factor-1 (Srebf1) and FA synthetase (Fasn) were unaltered by icariin. The lipid lysis genes Lipe and Pnpla2 were increased by icariin and clofibrate. These results indicate that icariin is a novel PPARα agonist, activates lipid metabolism gene expressions in liver, which could be a basis for its lipid-lowering effects and its beneficial effects against diabetes.
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