Identification of a Dual-Action Small Molecule with Potent Anti-diabetic and Anti-obesity Activity

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Virginia Tech

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is one of the fasting growing chronic diseases, caused by insulin resistance and pancreatic β-cell dysfunction. While over thirty medications were approved to treat T2D in the United States, less than one in four patients treated with anti-diabetic drugs achieved the glycemic target. Thus, identifying more effective anti-diabetic drugs is still needed for improving glycemic control in T2D patients. Incretins are gut hormones that possess potent insulinotropic action, which have drawn considerable attention in research and developing treatment strategy for T2D. Specifically, glucagon like peptide 1 (GLP-1), the most important incretin that is secreted from enteroendocrine L-cells in response to food ingestion, plays a vital role in maintaining glycemic homeostasis via potentiating glucose stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) and promoting pancreatic β-cell proliferation and survival. Therefore, targeting L-cells to induce GLP-1 secretion would be an alternative strategy for treating T2D. The goal of this research was to identify low-cost and safe naturally occurring agents as a primary or adjuvant treatment for T2D. Here, I found that a small molecule, elenolic acid (EA), which was generated in our lab but is also present in mature olive and extra virgin olive oil, dose-dependently stimulated GLP-1 secretion in mouse clonal L-cells and isolated mouse ileum crypts. EA induced a rapid increase in intracellular [Ca2+]i and the production of inositol trisphosphate in L-cells, indicating that EA activates phospholipase C (PLC)-mediated signaling. Consistently, inhibition of (PLC) ablated EA-stimulated increase of [Ca2+]i and GLP-1 secretion in L-cells. In addition, EA-triggered GLP-1 secretion from L-cells was blocked by YM-254890, a Gαq inhibitor. Consistent with our in vitro study, a single dose of EA acutely stimulated GLP-1 secretion in mice, accompanied with an improved oral glucose tolerance. Chronic administration of EA restored the impaired glucose and lipid homeostasis in DIO mice, which may be partially due to promoting GLP-1 secretion and reduced hepatic gluconeogenesis. In addition, EA suppressed appetite, reduced food intake and gastric emptying rate, as well as promoted weight loss in obese mice, demonstrating that it is also an anti-obesity agent. Further, EA treatment reduced lipid absorption, and promoted hepatic fatty acid oxidation, and reversed abnormal plasma lipid profiles in DIO mice. Consistently, EA exerted potent anti-diabetic action in db/db mice, and its blood glucose-lowering effect is comparable with that of liraglutide in blood glycemic control but is better than that of metformin in this overt diabetic model. Collectively, I have identified for the first time, as to the best of our knowledge, that EA could be a dual-action compound that exerts anti-diabetic effects via activation of the GLP-1 mediated metabolic pathway and suppression of hepatic gluconeogenesis, leading to effective control on food intake, body weight gain, and glycemia in T2D mice.

Elenolic acid, GLP-1, hyperglycemia, body weight, food intake, mice.