Ginsenoside Rh2 (Rh2) is an active principal ingredient contained in ginseng (Panax ginseng
Meyer), a medicinal herb used to enhance health worldwide. The present study is designed to investigate the effect of Rh2 on myocardial fibrosis in diabetic rats. In a streptozotocin-induced model of type-1 diabetic rats (STZ-diabetic rats), the increased fasting blood glucose levels and heart weight/body weight (HW/BW) ratio were substantially alleviated by Rh2. Moreover, Rh2 improved cardiac performance in STZ-diabetic rats. Histological results from Masson staining showed that Rh2 attenuated cardiac fibrosis in STZ-diabetic rats. The effects of Rh2 were reversed by GSK0660 at a dose sufficient to inhibit peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor δ (PPARδ) in STZ-diabetic rats. The role of PPARδ was subsequently investigated in vitro. Rh2 restored the decreased PPARδ expression level in high glucose-cultured cardiomyocytes. Moreover, increased protein levels of fibrotic signals, including signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3), connective tissue growth factor (CCN2) and fibronectin, were reduced by Rh2 in high glucose-cultured cardiomyocytes. These effects of Rh2 were reversed by GSK0660 or siRNA specific for PPARδ Taken together, PPARδ activation may inhibit STAT3 activation to reduce CCN2 and fibronectin expression in diabetic rats with cardiac fibrosis. Moreover, Rh2 improves cardiac function and fibrosis by increasing PPARδ signaling. Therefore, Rh2 is suitable to develop as an alternative remedy for cardiac fibrosis.
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