Cardamonin exerts a protective effect against autophagy and apoptosis in the testicles of diabetic male rats through the expression of Nrf2 via p62-mediated Keap-1 degradation

Korean J Physiol Pharmacol. 2021 Jul 1;25(4):341-354. doi: 10.4196/kjpp.2021.25.4.341.


Cardamonin (CARD) is a chalconoid with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and it is present in several plants. We sought to explore whether CARD exerts any positive effects against hyperglycemia-induced testicular dysfunction caused by type 2 diabetes and aimed to identify its possible intracellular pathways. Adult male rats were subdivided into six groups: control, CARD, diabetic (DM), DM + glibenclamide (GLIB), DM + CARD and DM + GLIB + CARD. Type 2 DM induced a significant increase in blood glucose and insulin resistance, along with diminished serum insulin, testosterone and gonadotropins levels, which were associated with the impairment of key testicular androgenic enzymes and cellular redox balance. Administration of CARD at a dose of 80 mg/kg for 4 weeks effectively normalized all of these alterations, and the improvement was confirmed by epididymal sperm analysis. After treatment with CARD, the pathological changes in spermatogenic tubules were markedly improved. Significantly, CARD upregulated testicular glucose transporter-8 (GLUT-8) expression and had inhibitory effects on elevated autophagy markers and caspase-3 immunoreactive cells. Furthermore, our results revealed that CARD was able to attenuate damage via activation of Nrf2 through the p62-dependent degradation of testicular anti-Kelch-like ECH-associated protein-1 (Keap-1). In conclusion, this study suggests that CARD provides protection against diabetic stress-mediated testicular damage. The use of CARD with conventional anti-diabetic therapy was associated with improved efficacy compared with conventional therapy alone.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Autophagy; Glucose transporter; Gonadotropins; Insulin sensitivity; Reproductive capacity.