Ethnopharmacological relevance: Numerous honeybee (Apis mellifera) products have been used in traditional medicine to treat infertility and to increase vitality in both men and women. Drone milk (DM) is a relatively little-known honeybee product with a putative sexual hormone effect. The oestrogenic effect of a fraction of DM has recently been reported in rats. However, no information is available on the androgenic effects of DM. The purpose of the present study was to determine the androgen-like effect of DM in male rats and to identify effective compounds.
Materials and methods: A modified Hershberger assay was used to investigate the androgenic effect of crude DM, and the plasma level of testosterone was measured. The prostatic mRNA and protein expression of Spot14-like androgen-inducible protein (SLAP) were also examined with real-time PCR and Western blot techniques. GC-MS and NMR spectroscopic investigations were performed to identify the active components gained by bioactivity-guided fractionation.
Results: The crude DM increased the relative weights of the androgen-dependent organs and the plasma testosterone level in castrated rats and these actions were flutamide-sensitive. DM increased the tissue mRNA and protein level of SLAP, providing further evidence of its androgen-like character. After bioactivity-guided fractionation, two fatty acid esters, methyl palmitate (MP) and methyl oleate (MO), were identified as active compounds. MP alone showed an androgenic effect, whereas MO increased the weight of androgen-sensitive tissues and the plasma testosterone level only in combination.
Conclusion: The experimental data of DM and its active compounds (MO and MP) show androgenic activity confirming the traditional usage of DM. DM or MP or/and MO treatments may project a natural mode for the therapy of male infertility.
Keywords: Apitherapy; Drone milk; Rat; SLAP; Testosterone.
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