African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines

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Chemical characterization of a hypoglycemic extract from Cucurbita ficifolia bouche that induces liver glycogen accumulation in diabetic mice

Jessica Gonzalez Garcia, Mario Lorenzana Garcia, Alejandro Zamilpa, Cesar Julio Almanza Perez, Ivan E. Jasso Villagomez, Ruben Ramos Roman, Javier Francisco Alarcon-Aguilar


Background: The aqueous extract of Cucurbita ficifolia (C. ficifolia) fruit has demonstrated hypoglycemic effect, which may be attributed to some components in the extract. However, the major secondary metabolites in this fruit have not yet been identified and little is known about its extra-pancreatic action, in particular, on liver carbohydrate metabolism. Therefore, in addition to the isolation and structural elucidation of the principal components in the aqueous extract of C. ficifolia, the aim of this study was to determine whether or not the hypoglycemic effect of the aqueous extract of Cucurbita ficifolia (C. ficifolia) fruit is due to accumulation of liver glycogen in diabetic mice.

Materials and Methods: The aqueous extract from fruit of C. ficifolia was fractionated and its main secondary metabolites were purified and chemically characterized (NMR and GC-MS). Alloxan-induced diabetic mice received daily by gavage the aqueous extract (30 days). The liver glycogen content was quantified by spectroscopic method and by PAS stain; ALT and AST by spectrometric method; glycogen synthase, glycogen phosphorylase and GLUT2 by Western blot; the mRNA expression of GLUT2 and glucagon-receptor by RT-PCR; while serum insulin was quantified by ELISA method. A liver histological analysis was also performed by H&E stain.

Results: Chemical fingerprint showed five majoritarian compounds in the aqueous extract of C. ficifolia: p-coumaric acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, salicin, stigmast-7,2,2-dien-3-ol and stigmast-7-en-3-ol. The histological analysis showed accumulation of liver glycogen. Also, increased glycogen synthase and decreased glycogen phosphorylase were observed. Interestingly, the histological architecture evidenced a liver-protective effect due the extract.

Conclusion: Five compounds were identified in C. ficifolia aqueous extract. The hypoglycemic effect of this extract may be partially explained by liver glycogen accumulation. The bioactive compound responsible for the hypoglycemic effect of this extract will be elucidated in subsequent studies.

Keywords: Cucurbita ficifolia, Cucurbitaceae, liver glycogen, hypoglycemic plants, p-coumaric acid, salicin, p-hydroxybenzoic acid

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