Inhibition of aldose reductase by tannoid principles of Emblica officinalis: implications for the prevention of sugar cataract

Mol Vis. 2004 Mar 12;10:148-54.


Purpose: Aldose reductase (AR) has been a drug target because of its involvement in the development of secondary complications of diabetes including cataract. Although numerous synthetic AR inhibitors (ARI) have been tested and shown to inhibit the enzyme, clinically synthetic ARIs have not been very successful. Therefore, evaluating natural sources for ARI potential may lead to the development of safer and more effective agents against diabetic complications. In the present study we have assessed the inhibition of AR by constituents of Emblica officinalis both in vitro and in lens organ culture.

Methods: E. officinalis is widely used against many chronic ailments including diabetes. Aqeous extract of E. officinalis and its major constituent tannoids were tested for inhibition against both rat lens and purified recombinant human AR. ARI potential of isolated tannoids of E. officinalis were also investigated against osmotic stress in rat lens organ culture.

Results: E. officinalis extract inhibited rat lens and recombinant human AR with IC50 values 0.72 and 0.88 mg/ml respectively. Since E. officinalis is a rich source of ascorbic acid, we investigated whether ascorbic acid was responsible for AR inhibition by E. officinalis extract. However, ascorbic acid did not inhibit AR even at 5 mM concentration. Further, we demonstrate that the hydrolysable tannoids of E. officinalis were responsible for AR inhibition, as enriched tannoids of E. officinalis exhibited remarkable inhibition against both rat lens and human AR with IC50 of 6 and 10 microg/ml respectively. The inhibition of AR by E. officinalis tannoids is 100 times higher than its aqueous extract and comparable to or better than quercetin. Furthermore, the isolated tannoids not only prevented the AR activation in rat lens organ culture but also sugar-induced osmotic changes.

Conclusions: These results indicate that tannoids of E. officinalis are potent inhibitors of AR and suggest that exploring the therapeutic value of natural ingredients that people can incorporate into everyday life may be an effective approach in the management of diabetic complications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aldehyde Reductase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Animals
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Lens, Crystalline / enzymology*
  • Male
  • Medicine, Ayurvedic
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Phyllanthus emblica / chemistry*
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Recombinant Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Tannins / pharmacology*


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Plant Extracts
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Tannins
  • Aldehyde Reductase
  • Ascorbic Acid