Annual wormwood (AW) (Artemisia annua
L.) has anti-malarial, anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-tumour, and anti-inflammatory activities. In the present study, we evaluated the effects of annual wormwood leaves (AWL) on adipocyte differentiation in 3T3-L1 cells and high-fat diet (HFD)-induced obese rats. 3T3-L1 adipocytes and HFD-induced obese rats were treated with AWL, and its effect on gene expression was analyzed using RT-PCR and Western blotting experiments. Treatment with AWL effectively prevented triglyceride accumulation during adipogenesis in a dose-dependent manner. Consistently, AWL suppressed the differentiation of 3T3-L1 preadipocytes into adipocytes through the downregulation of dexamethasone, 3-isobutyl-1- methylxanthine, and insulin (DMI)-induced serine/threonine kinase protein kinase B (PKB/Akt) activation and the expression of adipogenic genes, including the CCAAT/enhancer binding protein-α (C/EBPα) and peroximal proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPARγ). Moreover, the expression of adipocyte fatty acid-binding protein 4 (aP2), which is a known PPARγ-target gene, was downregulated by AWL treatment. Oral administration of AWL extracts significantly decreased the body weight gain, adipose tissue mass, adipocyte cell size, serum triglyceride (TG), and total cholesterol (TC) levels in HFD-induced obese rats. These results provide novel insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying the anti-obesity effects of AWL that are mediated by the downregulation of the expression of major adipogenic transcription factors, C/EBPα and PPARγ and Akt signalling.
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