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Ivy gourd (Coccinia grandis L. Voigt) root suppresses adipocyte differentiation in 3T3-L1 cells

Ruthaiwan Bunkrongcheap1, Nongporn Hutadilok-Towatana12*, Kusumarn Noipha3, Chatchai Wattanapiromsakul4, Masashi Inafuku5 and Hirosuke Oku5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Science, Prince of Songkla University, Hat-Yai 90110, Thailand

2 Natural Product Research Center of Excellence, Prince of Songkla University, Hat-Yai 90110, Thailand

3 Faculty of Health and Sports Science, Thaksin University, Patthalung 93110, Thailand

4 Department of Pharmacognosy and Pharmaceutical Botany, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Prince of Songkla University, Hat-Yai 90110, Thailand

5 Center of Molecular Biosciences, Tropical Biosphere Research Center, University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa 903-0213, Japan

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Lipids in Health and Disease 2014, 13:88  doi:10.1186/1476-511X-13-88

Published: 28 May 2014



Ivy gourd (Coccinia grandis L. Voigt) is a tropical plant widely distributed throughout Asia, Africa, and the Pacific Islands. The anti-obesity property of this plant has been claimed but still remains to be scientifically proven. We therefore investigated the effects of ivy gourd leaf, stem, and root on adipocyte differentiation by employing cell culture model.


Dried roots, stems, and leaves of ivy gourd were separately extracted with ethanol. Each extract was then applied to 3T3-L1 pre-adipocytes upon induction with a mixture of insulin, 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine, and dexamethasone, for anti-adipogenesis assay. The active extract was further fractionated by a sequential solvent partitioning method, and the resulting fractions were examined for their abilities to inhibit adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 cells. Differences in the expression of adipogenesis-related genes between the treated and untreated cells were determined from their mRNA and protein levels.


Of the three ivy gourd extracts, the root extract exhibited an anti-adipogenic effect. It significantly reduced intracellular fat accumulation during the early stages of adipocyte differentiation. Together with the suppression of differentiation, expression of the genes encoding PPARγ, C/EBPα, adiponectin, and GLUT4 were down-regulated. Hexane-soluble fraction of the root extract also inhibited adipocyte differentiation and decreased the mRNA levels of various adipogenic genes in the differentiating cells.


This is the first study to demonstrate that ivy gourd root may prevent obesity based mainly on the ability of its active constituent(s) to suppress adipocyte differentiation in vitro. Such an inhibitory effect is mediated by at least down-regulating the expression of PPARγ-the key transcription factor of adipogenesis in pre-adipocytes during their early differentiation processes.

Anti-adipogenesis; Adipocyte; Ivy gourd; Obesity; 3T3-L1 cells