Journal of Endocrinological Investigation

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 83–91 | Cite as

Artesunate protects pancreatic beta cells against cytokine-induced damage via SIRT1 inhibiting NF-κB activation

  • L. Yu
  • J. F. Chen
  • X. Shuai
  • Y. Xu
  • Y. Ding
  • J. Zhang
  • W. Yang
  • X. Liang
  • D. SuEmail author
  • C. YanEmail author
Original Article



Artesunate (ART) has been known as the most effective and safe reagents to treat malaria for many years. In this study, we explored whether ART could protect pancreatic beta-cell against cytokine-induced damage.

Materials and methods

The production of nitrite (NO) was detected with the Griess Assay Kit. SIRT1 and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) expression were determined with Western blot. The transcriptional activity of NF-κB was evaluated by luciferase reporter assay. The expression of Sirt1 was silenced by RNA interference. Glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) and potassium-stimulated insulin secretion (KSIS) assays were performed to measure the effect of ART on pancreatic beta-cells’ function. The effect of ART on beta-cells apoptosis was evaluated by using Hochest/PI staining and TUNEL assay.


ART enhanced GSIS (KSIS) and reduced apoptosis of pancreatic beta-cells induced by IL-1β. Further study showed that ART inhibited IL-1β-induced increase of NF-κB activity, iNOS expression, and NO production. Moreover, ART up-regulated SIRT1 expression in INS-1 cells and islets exposed to IL-1β. Inhibition of SIRT1 expression could partially abolished the inhibitory effect of ART on NF-κB activity in IL-1β-treated beta-cells. More importantly, the protective effect of ART on cytokine-induced damage was reversed by silencing SIRT1 expression.


ART can elicit a protective effect on beta-cells exposed to IL-1β by stimulating SIRT1 expression, which resulted in the decrease of NF-κB activity, iNOS expression, and NO production. Hence, ART might be an effective drug for diabetes.


Artesunate Pancreatic beta-cell IL-1β SIRT1 NF-κB 





Glucose-stimulates insulin secretion


Potassium-stimulated insulin secretion


Krebs-Ringer bicarbonate


3-(4,5-Dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide


Inducible nitric oxide synthase




Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This study was carried out in accordance with the guidelines of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at Nanjing Medical University and was approved by the Committee on the Ethics of Animal Experiments of Nanjing Medical University.

Informed consent

This study does not involve human subjects.


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Copyright information

© Italian Society of Endocrinology (SIE) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PathologyNanjing Medical UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.Department of EndocrinologyZhangzhou Affiliated Hospital of Fujian Medical UniversityZhangzhouChina
  3. 3.Department of Laboratory MedicineJiangsu Province Hospital on Integration of Chinese and Western MedicineNanjingChina
  4. 4.The Center of Metabolic Disease ResearchNanjing Medical UniversityNanjingChina
  5. 5.Department of EndocrinologyClinical Medical College of Yangzhou UniversityYangzhouChina

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