The present study aimed to evaluate the effects of paeoniflorin on insulin resistance and hepatic steatosis induced by fructose. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were fed 20% fructose drink for eight weeks. The insulin sensitivity, serum lipid profiles, and hepatic lipids contents were measured. The results showed that paeoniflorin significantly decreased serum insulin and glucagon levels, improved insulin sensitivity and serum lipids profiles, and alleviated hepatic steatosis in fructose-fed rats. Moreover, paeoniflorin enhanced the phosphorylation level of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and protein kinase B (PKB/AKT) and inhibited the phosphorylation of acetyl coenzyme A carboxylase (ACC)1 in liver. Paeoniflorin also increased the hepatic carnitine palmitoyltransferase (CPT)-1 mRNA and protein expression and decreased the mRNA expression of sterol regulatory element-binding protein (SREBP)1c, stearyl coenzyme A decarboxylase (SCD)-1 and fatty acid synthetase (FAS). Furthermore, we found that paeoniflorin significantly increased the heptatic protein expression of tumor suppressor serine/threonine kinase (LKB)1 but not Ca2+
/CaM-dependent protein kinase kinase (CaMKK)β. These results suggest that the protective effects of paeoniflorin might be involved in the activation of LKB1/AMPK and insulin signaling, which resulted in the inhibition of lipogenesis, as well as the activation of β-oxidation and glycogenesis, thus ameliorated the insulin resistance and hepatic steatosis. The present study may provide evidence for the beneficial effects of paeoniflorin in the treatment of insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver.
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