In this study, researchers at the Southern Medical University in China investigated the effects of betulinic acid on human hepatic stellate cells in vitro and C57BL/6 mice in vivo. Their findings were published in the Journal of Natural Medicines.
The researchers explored how betulinic acid affects the expression of alpha smooth muscle actin and autophagy-related proteins.
They found that betulinic acid reduced pathological damage associated with liver fibrosis.
The compound also decreased serum platelet-derived growth factor and serum hydroxyproline levels.
In the livers of mice, betulinic acid downregulated the expression of alpha smooth muscle actin and type I collagen but upregulated the expression of microtubule-associated protein light chain 3B and autophagy-related gene 7.
In vitro, betulinic acid increased the expression of the autophagy marker, LC3II, but decreased the expression of alpha muscle actin in hepatic stellate cells.
The introduction of bafilomycin A1 and mCherry-GFP-LC3 adenoviruses promoted the formation of autophagosomes in hepatic stellate cells and the development of autophagic flow.
These results suggest that mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal-regulated kinase may be involved in the effects of betulinic acid on liver fibrosis.
Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that the anti-hepatic fibrosis activity of betulinic acid is due to its ability to induce autophagy, which makes it a promising new agent for treating liver fibrosis.
Liu Y, Bi Y, Mo C, Zeng T, Huang S, Gao L, Sun X, Lv Z. BETULINIC ACID ATTENUATES LIVER FIBROSIS BY INDUCING AUTOPHAGY VIA THE MITOGEN-ACTIVATED PROTEIN KINASE/EXTRACELLULAR SIGNAL-REGULATED KINASE PATHWAY. Journal of Natural Medicines. 2018;73(1):179–189. DOI: 10.1007/s11418-018-1262-2