Urolithin C alleviates Pancreatic β-Cell Dysfunction in Type 1 Diabetes by Activating Nrf2 Signaling

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Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disorder that destroys insulin-generating pancreatic β-cells. Preserving pancreatic β-cell function is important for treating T1D. Our study aims to explore the mechanism underlying urolithin C (UC)-mediated regulation of β-cell function.


Non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice were administrated with UC to evaluate UC-mediated protection of T1D. The inflammation of the pancreas islets was examined by hematoxylin and eosin staining. Glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) assay and oral glucose tolerance test were applied to evaluate the progression of T1D. MIN6 cells were treated with TNF-α, IL-1β and IFN-γ in the presence of UC. Cell viability was analyzed by CCK-8. Cell apoptosis, proliferation and DNA fragmentation were examined by Annexin V-FITC and PI staining, EdU incorporation and comet assays. Keap1, Nrf2, HO-1 and NQO1 were examined by western blot. Immunofluorescence staining was applied to detect Nrf2 and insulin.


UC administration significantly reduced diabetes incidence, attenuated insulitis, elevated insulin levels and GSIS and reduced blood glucose and AUC in NOD mice. Cytokine treatment suppressed MIN6 cell viability and proliferation but enhanced apoptosis and DNA damage, and these detrimental effects were relieved by UC treatment. Furthermore, UC administration inhibited Keap1 expression and promoted the expression of Nrf2, HO-1 and NQO1 in NOD mice. Nrf2 signaling has been reported to be implicated in preventing the onset of diabetes, and HO-1 and NQO1 are phase II antioxidant enzymes that are regulated by Nrf2 signaling. Cytokine treatment upregulated Keap1 and downregulated Nrf2, HO-1 and NQO1 in MIN6 cells, but it was reversed by UC. The nuclear translocation of Nrf2 was prevented by cytokine treatment, but UC promoted its nuclear translocation. UC-mediated upregulation of Nrf2, HO-1 and NQO1, decreased cell apoptosis and increased proliferation and insulin secretion were abolished by silencing of Nrf2.


UC improves pancreatic β-cell function by activating Nrf2 signaling, thereby alleviating T1D progression.

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