In this study, we determined the effects of hederagenin isolated from Akebia quinata
fruit on alcohol-induced hepatotoxicity in rats. Specifically, we investigated the hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-apoptotic effects of hederagenin, as well as the role of AKT and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathways in ethanol-induced liver injury. Experimental animals were randomly divided into three groups: normal (sham), 25% ethanol, and 25% ethanol + hederagenin (50 mg/kg/day). Each group was orally administered the respective treatments once per day for 21 days. Acetaldehyde dehydrogenase-2 mRNA expression was higher and alcohol dehydrogenase mRNA expression was lower in the ethanol + hederagenin group than those in the ethanol group. Pro-inflammatory cytokines, including TNF-α, IL-6, and cyclooxygenase-2, significantly increased in the ethanol group, but these increases were attenuated by hederagenin. Moreover, Western blot analysis showed increased expression of the apoptosis-associated protein, Bcl-2, and decreased expression of Bax and p53 after treatment with hederagenin. Hederagenin treatment attenuated ethanol-induced increases in activated p38 MAPK and increased the levels of phosphorylated AKT and ERK. Hederagenin alleviated ethanol-induced liver damage through anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic activities. These results suggest that hederagenin is a potential candidate for preventing alcoholic liver injury.
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