Ursolic acid protects diabetic mice against monocyte dysfunction and accelerated atherosclerosis

Sarah L. Ullevig, Qingwei Zhao, Debora Zamora, Reto Asmis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Aims: Accelerated atherosclerosis is a major diabetic complication initiated by the enhanced recruitment of monocytes into the vasculature. In this study, we examined the therapeutic potential of the phytonutrients ursolic acid (UA) and resveratrol (RES) in preventing monocyte recruitment and accelerated atherosclerosis. Methods and results: Dietary supplementation with either RES or UA (0.2%) protected against accelerated atherosclerosis induced by streptozotocin in high-fat diet-fed LDL receptor-deficient mice. However, mice that received dietary UA for 11 weeks were significantly better protected and showed a 53% reduction in lesion formation while mice fed a RES-supplemented diet showed only a 31% reduction in lesion size. Importantly, UA was also significantly more effective in preventing the appearance of proinflammatory GR-1 high monocytes induced by these diabetic conditions and reducing monocyte recruitment into MCP-1-loaded Matrigel plugs implanted into these diabetic mice. Oxidatively stressed THP-1 monocytes mimicked the behavior of blood monocytes in diabetic mice and showed enhanced responsiveness to monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) without changing MCP-1 receptor (CCR2) surface expression. Pretreatment of THP-1 monocytes with RES or UA (0.3-10μM) for 15h resulted in the dose-dependent inhibition of H 2O 2-accelerated chemotaxis in response to MCP-1, but with an IC 50 of 0.4μM, UA was 2.7-fold more potent than RES. Conclusion: Dietary UA is a potent inhibitor of monocyte dysfunction and accelerated atherosclerosis induced by diabetes. These studies identify ursolic acid as a potential therapeutic agent for the treatment of diabetic complications, including accelerated atherosclerosis, and provide a novel mechanism for the anti-atherogenic properties of ursolic acid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-416
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Chemotaxis
  • Diabetes
  • Monocyte

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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