Methylglyoxal (MG) is a toxic-glucose metabolite and a major precursor of advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs). MG has been reported to result in inflammation by activating receptor for AGEs (RAGE). We recently found that Monascus-fermented metabolite monascin acts as a novel natural peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPARγ) agonist that improves insulin sensitivity. We investigated the metabolic, biochemical, and molecular abnormalities characteristic of type 2 diabetes in MG-treated Wistar rats treated with oral administration of monascin or rosiglitazone. Monascin (a novel PPARγ agonist) activated nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) and down-regulated hyperinsulinmia in oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). Monascin was able to elevate glyoxalase-1 expression via activation of hepatic Nrf2, hence, resulting in MG metabolism to d-lactic acid and protected from AGEs production in MG-treated rats. Rosiglitazone did not activate Nrf2 nor glyoxalase expression to lower serum and hepatic AGEs levels. Monascin acts as a novel natural Nrf2 activator with PPARγ-agonist activity were confirmed by Nrf2 and PPARγ reporter assays in Hep G2 cells. These findings suggest that monascin acts as an anti-diabetic and anti-oxidative stress agent to a greater degree than rosiglitazone and thus may have therapeutic potential for the prevention of diabetes.
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