Poria cocos Wolf (PCW) is an edible, pharmaceutical mushroom with remarkable biological properties including anti-tumor, anti-inflammation, anti-oxidation, anti-ageing, and anti-diabetic effects. In the current study, we investigated the effects of PCW extract on hepatic steatosis under in vitro and in vivo conditions, and elucidated the underlying mechanisms. In this study, a mixture of HepG2 cells treated with free fatty acid (FFA)-palmitic and oleic acid-and high-fat diet (HFD)-fed obese mice were used; in this background, the triglyceride (TG) levels in HepG2 cells and mice liver were measured, and the expression levels of genes associated with lipogenesis, fatty acid oxidation, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, and autophagy were determined. Treatment of HepG2 cells with FFA enhanced intracellular TG levels in HepG2 cells, but co-treatment with PCW significantly attenuated the TG levels. Notably, PCW significantly enhanced the phosphorylation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC), and sterol regulatory element-binding protein-1c (SREBP-1c) in FFA-treated HepG2 cells. PCW downregulated the expression of lipogenesis-related genes, but upregulated the expression of genes associated with fatty acid oxidation. Further, PCW inhibited FFA-induced expression of ER stress markers and induced autophagy proteins. However, inhibition of AMPK significantly attenuated the beneficial effects of PCW in HepG2 cells. Moreover, PCW efficiently decreased HFD-induced hepatic TG accumulation in vivo and increased the phosphorylation of hepatic AMPK. Three compounds present in PCW including poricoic acid, pachymic acid, and ergosterol, significantly decreased FFA-induced increase in intracellular TG levels, consistent with increased AMPK phosphorylation, suggesting that poricoic acid, pachymic acid, and ergosterol are responsible for PCW-mediated amelioration of hepatic steatosis. Taken together, these results demonstrated that PCW ameliorates hepatic steatosis through the regulation of lipid metabolism, inhibition of ER stress, and activation of autophagy in an AMPK-dependent manner. This suggested that PCW can be potentially used for the treatment of hepatic steatosis.
Keywords: AMP-activated protein kinase; Poria cocos Wolf; autophagy; endoplasmic reticulum stress; fatty acid oxidation; hepatic steatosis; lipogenesis.