Body fat mass reduction and up-regulation of uncoupling protein by novel lipolysis-promoting plant extract

Int J Biol Sci. 2009;5(4):311-8. doi: 10.7150/ijbs.5.311. Epub 2009 Apr 28.


We have found natural products exhibiting lipolysis-promoting activity in subcutaneous adipocytes, which are less sensitive to hormones than visceral adipocytes. The activities and a action mechanisms of a novel plant extract of Cirsium oligophyllum (CE) were investigated in isolated adipocytes from rat subcutaneous fat, and its fat-reducing effects by peroral administration and topical application were evaluated in vivo. CE-induced lipolysis was synergistically enhanced by caffeine, a phosphodiesterase inhibitor, and was reduced by propranolol, a beta adrenergic antagonist. The peroral administration of 10% CE solution to Wistar rats for 32 days reduced body weight gain, subcutaneous, and visceral fat weights by 6.6, 26.2, and 3.0%, respectively, as compared to the control group. By the topical application of 2% of this extract to rats for 7 days, weight of subcutaneous fat in the treated skin was reduced by 23.2%. This fat mass reduction was accompanied by the up-regulation of uncoupling protein 1 (UCP), a principal thermogenic mitochondrial molecule related to energy dissipating, in subcutaneous fat and UCP3 in skin except for the fat layer. These results indicate that CE promotes lipolysis via a mechanism involving the beta adrenergic receptor, and affects the body fat mass. This fat reduction may be partially due to UCP up-regulation in the skin including subcutaneous fat. This is the first report showing that repeated lipolysis promotion through CE administration may be beneficial for the systematic suppression of body fat accumulation or the control of fat distribution in obesity.

Keywords: fat reduction; lipolysis; plant extract; uncoupling protein; β adrenergic receptor.

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / drug effects*
  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue, White / drug effects*
  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Body Composition / drug effects
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Caffeine / pharmacology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cirsium*
  • Drug Synergism
  • Ion Channels / metabolism*
  • Lipolysis / drug effects
  • Male
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage*
  • Plant Extracts / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Propranolol / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • Uncoupling Protein 3
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Ion Channels
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors
  • Plant Extracts
  • Ucp1 protein, rat
  • Ucp3 protein, rat
  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • Uncoupling Protein 3
  • Caffeine
  • Propranolol