Cimifugin Ameliorates Lipotoxicity-Induced Hepatocyte Damage and Steatosis through TLR4/p38 MAPK- and SIRT1-Involved Pathways

Wenwen Yang, Linwensi Zhu, Shanglei Lai, Qinchao Ding, Tiantian Xu, Rui Guo, Xiaobing Dou, Hui Chai, Zhiling Yu, Songtao Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)



Hepatic metabolic disorder induced by lipotoxicity plays a detrimental role in metabolic fatty liver disease pathogenesis. Cimifugin (Cim), a coumarin derivative extracted from the root of Saposhnikovia divaricata, possesses multiple biological properties against inflammation, allergy, and oxidative stress. However, limited study has addressed the hepatoprotective role of Cim. Here, we investigate the protective effect of Cim against lipotoxicity-induced cytotoxicity and steatosis in hepatocytes and clarify its potential mechanisms. 


AML-12, a nontransformed mouse hepatocyte cell line, was employed in this study. The cells were incubated with palmitate or oleate to imitate hepatotoxicity or steatosis model, respectively. 


Cim significantly reversed palmitate-induced hepatocellular injury in a dose-dependent manner, accompanied by improvements in oxidative stress and mitochondrial damage. Cim pretreatment reversed palmitate-stimulated TLR4/p38 MAPK activation and SIRT1 reduction without affecting JNK, ERK1/2, and AMPK pathways. The hepatoprotective effects of Cim were abolished either through activating TLR4/p38 by their pharmacological agonists or genetical silencing SIRT1 via special siRNA, indicating a mechanistic involvement. Moreover, Cim treatment improved oleate-induced hepatocellular lipid accumulation, which could be blocked by either TLR4 stimulation or SIRT1 knockdown. We observed that SIRT1 was a potential target of TLR4 in palmitate-treated hepatocytes, since TLR4 agonist LPS aggravated, whereas TLR4 antagonist CLI-095 alleviated palmitate-decreased SIRT1 expression. SIRT1 knockdown did not affect palmitate-induced TLR4. In addition, TLR4 activation by LPS significantly abolished Cim-protected SIRT1 reduction induced by palmitate. These results collaboratively indicated that TLR4-regulated SIRT1 pathways was mechanistically involved in the protective effects of Cim against lipotoxicity. 


In brief, we demonstrate the protective effects of Cim against lipotoxicity-induced cell death and steatosis in hepatocytes. TLR4-regulated p38 MAPK and SIRT1 pathways are involved in Cim-protected hepatic lipotoxicity. Cim is a potential candidate for improving hepatic metabolic disorders mediated by lipotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4557532
JournalOxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Ageing
  • Cell Biology


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