Gugulipid causes hypercholesterolemia leading to endothelial dysfunction, increased atherosclerosis, and premature death by ischemic heart disease in male mice

PLoS One. 2017 Sep 14;12(9):e0184280. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0184280. eCollection 2017.


For proper cholesterol metabolism, normal expression and function of scavenger receptor class B type I (SR-BI), a high-density lipoprotein (HDL) receptor, is required. Among the factors that regulate overall cholesterol homeostasis and HDL metabolism, the nuclear farnesoid X receptor plays an important role. Guggulsterone, a bioactive compound present in the natural product gugulipid, is an antagonist of this receptor. This natural product is widely used globally as a natural lipid-lowering agent, although its anti-atherogenic cardiovascular benefit in animal models or humans is unknown. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of gugulipid on cholesterol homeostasis and development of mild and severe atherosclerosis in male mice. For this purpose, we evaluated the impact of gugulipid treatment on liver histology, plasma lipoprotein cholesterol, endothelial function, and development of atherosclerosis and/or ischemic heart disease in wild-type mice; apolipoprotein E knockout mice, a model of atherosclerosis without ischemic complications; and SR-B1 knockout and atherogenic-diet-fed apolipoprotein E hypomorphic (SR-BI KO/ApoER61h/h) mice, a model of lethal ischemic heart disease due to severe atherosclerosis. Gugulipid administration was associated with histological abnormalities in liver, increased alanine aminotransferase levels, lower hepatic SR-BI content, hypercholesterolemia due to increased HDL cholesterol levels, endothelial dysfunction, enhanced atherosclerosis, and accelerated death in animals with severe ischemic heart disease. In conclusion, our data show important adverse effects of gugulipid intake on HDL metabolism and atherosclerosis in male mice, suggesting potential and unknown deleterious effects on cardiovascular health in humans. In addition, these findings reemphasize the need for rigorous preclinical and clinical studies to provide guidance on the consumption of natural products and regulation of their use in the general population.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / chemically induced
  • Atherosclerosis / genetics
  • Atherosclerosis / metabolism*
  • Atherosclerosis / pathology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / pathology
  • Hypercholesterolemia / chemically induced
  • Hypercholesterolemia / genetics
  • Hypercholesterolemia / metabolism*
  • Hypercholesterolemia / pathology
  • LDL-Receptor Related Proteins / deficiency
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Myocardial Ischemia / chemically induced
  • Myocardial Ischemia / genetics
  • Myocardial Ischemia / metabolism*
  • Myocardial Ischemia / pathology
  • Plant Extracts / toxicity*
  • Plant Gums / toxicity*
  • Scavenger Receptors, Class B / deficiency


  • LDL-Receptor Related Proteins
  • Plant Extracts
  • Plant Gums
  • Scarb1 protein, mouse
  • Scavenger Receptors, Class B
  • guggulu extract

Grant support

This work was funded by the Chilean National Research and Technology Commission (Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica, CONICYT), Fondo Nacional de Desarrollo Científico y Tecnológico grant #1070634 (A. Rigotti), #1150399 (A. Rigotti), # 1150344 (A. Leiva) and CONICYT Ph.D. fellowships (A. Leiva, E. Sepúlveda). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.