Pu'erh tea extract-mediated protection against hepatosteatosis and insulin resistance in mice with diet-induced obesity is associated with the induction of de novo lipogenesis in visceral adipose tissue

J Gastroenterol. 2017 Dec;52(12):1240-1251. doi: 10.1007/s00535-017-1332-3. Epub 2017 Mar 31.


Background: White adipose tissue (WAT) is important for the maintenance of metabolic homeostasis, and metabolic syndrome is sometimes associated with WAT dysfunction in humans and animals. WAT reportedly plays a key, beneficial role in the maintenance of glucose and lipid homeostasis during de novo lipogenesis (DNL). Pu'erh tea extract (PTE) can inhibit harmful, ectopic DNL in the liver, thus protecting against hepatosteatosis, in mice with diet-induced obesity. We examined whether PTE could induce DNL in WAT and consequently protect against hepatosteatosis.

Methods: C57BL/6 male mice were fed a high-fat diet (HFD) with/without PTE for 16 weeks. Systemic insulin sensitivity was determined using HOMA-IR, insulin- and glucose-tolerance tests, and WAT adipogenesis was evaluated by histological analysis. Adipogenesis-, inflammation-, and DNL-related gene expression in visceral AT (VAT) and subcutaneous AT (SAT) was measured using quantitative reverse transcription-PCR. Regression analysis was used to investigate the association between DNL in WAT and systemic insulin resistance or hepatosteatosis.

Results: Pu'erh tea extract significantly reduced the gain of body weight and SAT, but not VAT adiposity, in mice fed the high-fat diet and induced adipogenesis in VAT. The expression of DNL-related genes, including Glut4, encoding an important insulin-regulated glucose transporter (GLUT4), were highly elevated in VAT. Moreover, PTE inhibited VAT inflammation by simultaneously downregulating inflammatory molecules and inducing expression of Gpr120 that encodes an anti-inflammatory and pro-adipogenesis receptor (GPR-120) that recognizes unsaturated long-chain fatty acids, including DNL products. The expression of DNL-related genes in VAT was inversely correlated with hepatosteatosis and systemic insulin resistance.

Conclusions: Activation of DNL in VAT may explain PTE-mediated alleviation of hepatosteatosis symptoms and systemic insulin resistance.

Keywords: De novo lipogenesis; Hepatosteatosis; Insulin resistance; Pu’erh tea extract; Visceral adipose tissue.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, White / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Fatty Liver / prevention & control*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / drug effects
  • Lipogenesis / drug effects
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / drug therapy
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Tea / chemistry*


  • Insulin
  • Plant Extracts
  • Tea
  • Glucose