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Original Article

Korean J Physiol Pharmacol 2021; 25(2): 147-157

Published online March 1, 2021

Copyright © Korean J Physiol Pharmacol.

Puerarin pretreatment attenuates cardiomyocyte apoptosis induced by coronary microembolization in rats by activating the PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β signaling pathway

Zhi-Qing Chen1, You Zhou1, Jun-Wen Huang1, Feng Chen2, Jing Zheng1, Hao-Liang Li1, Tao Li1, and Lang Li1,*

1Department of Cardiology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Guangxi Medical University & Guangxi Key Laboratory Base of Precision Medicine in Cardio-cerebrovascular Diseases Control and Prevention & Guangxi Clinical Research Center for Cardio-cerebrovascular Diseases, 2Department of Emergency, The First Affiliated Hospital of Guangxi Medical University, Nanning, Guangxi 530021, China

Correspondence to:Lang Li

Received: September 4, 2020; Revised: October 15, 2020; Accepted: October 26, 2020

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Coronary microembolization (CME) is associated with cardiomyocyte apoptosis and cardiac dysfunction. Puerarin confers protection against multiple cardiovascular diseases, but its effects and specific mechanisms on CME are not fully known. Hence, our study investigated whether puerarin pretreatment could alleviate cardiomyocyte apoptosis and improve cardiac function following CME. The molecular mechanism associated was also explored. A total of 48 Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly divided into CME, CME + Puerarin (CME + Pue), sham, and sham + Puerarin (sham + Pue) groups (with 12 rats per group). A CME model was established in CME and CME + Pue groups by injecting 42 μm microspheres into the left ventricle of rats. Rats in the CME + Pue and sham + Pue groups were intraperitoneally injected with puerarin at 120 mg/kg daily for 7 days before operation. Cardiac function, myocardial histopathology, and cardiomyocyte apoptosis index were determined via cardiac ultrasound, hematoxylin-eosin (H&E) and hematoxylin-basic fuchsin-picric acid (HBFP) stainings, and TdT-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling (TUNEL) staining, respectively. Western blotting was used to measure protein expression related to the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/protein kinase B (Akt)/glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β) pathway. We found that, puerarin significantly ameliorated cardiac dysfunction after CME, attenuated myocardial infarct size, and reduced myocardial apoptotic index. Besides, puerarin inhibited cardiomyocyte apoptosis, as revealed by decreased Bax and cleaved caspase-3, and up-regulated Bcl-2 and PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β pathway related proteins. Collectively, puerarin can inhibit cardiomyocyte apoptosis and thus attenuate myocardial injury caused by CME. Mechanistically, these effects may be achieved through activation of the PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β pathway.

Keywords: Apoptosis, Coronary microembolization, Myocardial injury, PI3K/Akt/GSK-3, Puerarin