Ursolic acid directly promotes protein accretion in myotubes but does not affect myoblast proliferation

Cell Biochem Funct. 2012 Jul;30(5):432-7. doi: 10.1002/cbf.2821. Epub 2012 Mar 13.


Ursolic acid (UA) has been recently proposed as a potential candidate for the treatment of muscle wasting conditions because of its protein sparring/anabolic effects. Despite this finding, it is unknown whether this response is the consequence of a direct effect on the muscle fibre or if it is mediated by neural or other systemic factors. In the present study, we sought to determine if UA has direct effects in skeletal muscle cells, whether it can increase myoblast proliferation and whether UA can become myotoxic at higher doses. Our results demonstrate that UA directly promoted protein accretion in cultured myotubes but did not modulate myoblast proliferation. At higher doses, UA compromised cell viability in both myoblasts and myotubes. We conclude that the anabolic properties of UA seen in vivo and in vitro are likely a direct effect on the muscle cell, but at higher doses, the benefits decline in favour of a myotoxic outcome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / drug effects*
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism*
  • Myoblasts / cytology
  • Myoblasts / drug effects*
  • Time Factors
  • Triterpenes / pharmacology*


  • Muscle Proteins
  • Triterpenes
  • ursolic acid