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Luo, Q.; Wei, Y.; Lv, X.; Chen, W.; Yang, D.; Tuo, Q. The Effect of Oleanolic Acid. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 21 April 2024).
Luo Q, Wei Y, Lv X, Chen W, Yang D, Tuo Q. The Effect of Oleanolic Acid. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed April 21, 2024.
Luo, Quanye, Yu Wei, Xuzhen Lv, Wen Chen, Dongmei Yang, Qinhui Tuo. "The Effect of Oleanolic Acid" Encyclopedia, (accessed April 21, 2024).
Luo, Q., Wei, Y., Lv, X., Chen, W., Yang, D., & Tuo, Q. (2024, February 22). The Effect of Oleanolic Acid. In Encyclopedia.
Luo, Quanye, et al. "The Effect of Oleanolic Acid." Encyclopedia. Web. 22 February, 2024.
The Effect of Oleanolic Acid

The natural product oleanolic acid (OA: 3b-hydroxyolean-12-en-28-oic acid) is a pentacyclic triterpenoid compound. It has been extracted from many species, including Olea europaea. Studies on biological activity have shown that OA has a liver-protective effect, and has been listed as a liver-protective drug in China. OA also has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-hyperglycemia, anti-hyperlipidemia, cardioprotective, anti-atherosclerotic, and some other pharmacological effects.

oleanolic acid metabolic syndrome cardiovascular diseases

1. Anti-Metabolic Syndromes’ Effects

1.1. Anti-Obesity

Obesity is associated with numerous diseases and a shortened life expectancy [1]. Fat production is the maturation of fat cells by which preadipocytes become adipocytes, so they play an essential part in obesity [2]. In the process, CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein (C/EBP) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) are thought to be the vital early regulatory proteins for lipogenesis. Adiponectin, sterol regulatory element-binding protein 1 (SREBP1), and fatty acid synthetase (FAS) are in charge of the production of mature fat cells [3]. OA could inhibit the expression of the visceral fat-specific adipokine and downregulate PPARγ and C/EBPα to reduce the intracellular accumulation of fat in adipocytes [4]. Furthermore, OA may reduce obesity via the suppression of the adipogenic factors PPARα, SREBP1, and FAS [5]. OA has been shown to reduce the synthesis of fat and accelerate the utilization of fat through the alteration of hepatic PPARα, recombinant carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1A (CPT1A), SREBP-1, the acetyl coenzyme A carboxylase, and coupled protein 1 (UCP1) [6]. In addition, OA can reduce blood glucose and lipid levels by promoting carbohydrate and fat metabolism [7]. Another piece of research showed that OA can be effective against postmenopausal obesity by inhibiting fat synthesis acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC) and upregulating essential genes for estrogen production, CYP11, CYP1, and CYP17A19 [8].
Inflammation is crucial in obesity [9]; chronic inflammation in adipose tissue is primarily driven by macrophages [10] that are classified into two types: M1-type macrophages and M2-type macrophages [11]. An increase in the ratio of M1/M2-type macrophages can enhance adipocyte growth, fat storage, and adipocyte differentiation [12]. Recent research has discovered that OA was able to reduce inflammation via the inhibition of macrophage infiltration, the M1/M2 ratio in adipose tissues, reactive oxygen species (ROS), and decreasing NACHT, LRR, and PYD structural domain protein 3 (NLRP3) [13].
Resistin is an adipocyte-specific secreted factor associated with adipocyte differentiation [14]. OA could reduce resistin synthesis in vivo by stimulating the cellular signaling transcriptional repressor three signaling and interfering with the tyrosine kinase 2-transcriptional signaling sensor activator [15]. Furthermore, glucose homeostasis and adipocyte differentiation are regulated by transcription factor hepatocyte nuclear factor 1b (HNF1b) [16]. The research showed that OA could relieve glucose/lipid metabolic dysfunction via HNF1b [17].
The causes of obesity are complex, the symptoms are diverse, and multiple organs are implicated, so OA in treating obesity is far from sufficient, especially in molecular mechanisms where it is even more insufficient. Therefore, more research is needed to demonstrate the role of OA in treating obesity.

1.2. Anti-Hyperlipidemia

Hyperlipidemia is defined as elevations of the fasting total cholesterol concentration, which could directly cause some severe diseases [18]. Numerous studies have suggested that OA is beneficial in the treatment of hyperlipidemia. OA could attenuate the triglycerides (TG) in rats by reducing the fat synthesis factor sterol regulatory element and activating transcription factor 1 [19]. OA also reduces total cholesterol (TC) formation by inhibiting cholesterol acyltransferase activity [20]. A high-fat diet will increase the level of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1β (PGC-1β) leading to lipogenesis and very-low-density lipoprotein secretion [21]; OA could decrease serum lipids in mice via the inhibition of PGC-1β expression [22]. Clinical investigations also have shown that OA decreased serum lipids in hyperlipidemic patients [23].
Hyperlipidemia is frequently one of the risk factors for various issues. Thus, improving blood lipids is critical for human health. Recent research demonstrated that OA can decrease low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-c), TC, and TG in mice. The process is thought to be connected to essential targets of lipid synthesis and accumulation.

1.3. Anti-Hypertension

One of the cardiovascular risk factors is hypertension [24]. Research revealed that OA was helpful in hypertension [25][26]. OA could diminish vascular resistance by promoting nitric oxide (NO) and inhibiting COX levels in isolated rat vessels [27]. OA also prevented hypertension in rats via the suppression of NO catabolism [28]. Another study indicated that OA can improve high blood pressure by increasing the expression of eNOS [29]. Meanwhile, OA increased the vasodilator endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor (EDHF) and NO to maintain normal blood pressure [30].
The renin–angiotensin system and atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) are crucial to blood pressure homeostasis [31]. It was found that OA can maintain the homeostasis of blood pressure by inhibiting the renin–angiotensin system and enhancing the fluid balance [32]. OA also could increase the expression of atrial ANP, thus enhancing vascular homeostasis [33]. In addition, the diuretic and nephroprotective properties of OA could reduce hypertension [34]. Furthermore, OA could improve hypertension via upregulating the anti-oxidative stress capacity and enhancing diuretic and natriuretic functions in hypertensive rats [35].
Hypertension is one of the most prevalent systemic metabolic disorders [36]; hypertensive patients also have substantially elevated levels of lipid metabolites [37]. Numerous studies have demonstrated that reducing lipids can improve hypertension. OA was found to reduce hypertension by downregulating the expression of pro-inflammatory factor-secreting phospholipase A2 and fat synthesis factor FAS and inhibiting lipid accumulation [38].
In conclusion, the incidence of hypertension has been rising steadily over the past decade, and the effective treatment of hypertension has a positive impact on middle-age and old-age patients. OA, a natural compound, can protect vascular endothelial cells, enhance body fluid balance, and promote glucose and lipid metabolism to reduce hypertension.

1.4. Anti-Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver

Non-alcoholic fatty liver is caused by hepatic steatosis in the liver [39]. Among the pathological mechanisms, the fat overloading in the liver triggered an inflammatory cascade response and subsequently developed into steatohepatitis [40]. Recent research indicated that OA could delay the development of a nonalcoholic fatty liver by reducing inflammation, steatosis, and fibrosis in rats [41]. Furthermore, the liver could be in danger from microbial disorders and increased intestinal permeability, which may exacerbate the inflammatory responses to the nonalcoholic fatty liver [42]; research has shown that OA could treat nonalcoholic fatty liver by ameliorating intestinal barrier dysfunction and the Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4)-associated inflammatory responses [43].
Oxidative stress induced by a hepatic lipid overload exacerbates liver injury [44]. It was discovered that OA could substantially mitigate a nonalcoholic fatty liver by ameliorating hepatic oxidative stress and decreasing lipid synthesis factor SREBP1 [45].
Liver X receptors (LXR) are highly expressed in the liver and responsible for cholesterol metabolism and homeostasis [46]; LXR primarily activates the hepatic fat synthesis pathway by activating the promoter region of SREBP-1 [47]. Research demonstrated that OA was able to improve the abnormal accumulation of fat in the liver by reducing the expression of LXR and the activity of SREBP-1, as well as increasing the expression of reverse cholesterol transport (RCT)-related genes, including ATP-binding cassette transporter protein (ABC)A1 and ABCG1 [48]. Furthermore, OA could directly inhibit the expression of the SREBP-1 protein and decrease fatty acid accumulation in the body, thus ameliorating the progress of nonalcoholic fatty liver [49].
Briefly speaking, OA inhibits fat accumulation, accelerates cholesterol transport in the liver, and suppresses hepatic inflammation and oxidative stress in the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver.

1.5. Anti-Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder characterized by elevated blood sugar, mainly caused by an absolute or relative insulin deficiency and insulin resistance, classified as type 1 and type 2, with type 2 comprising nearly 95% of cases [50]. Insulin sensitivity can be affected by oxidative stress, inflammation, and metabolic disorders.
Inflammation is significant in diabetes mellitus [51]; an inordinate increase of inflammatory factors hinders insulin receptor signaling and leads to insulin resistance [52]. Research has shown that the expression of TLR4, TLR9, interleukin 6 (IL-6), IL-18, tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α), TNF-1, and C-reactive protein (CRP) was reduced by OA in diabetic rats [53][54][55][56]. Furthermore, OA also could improve insulin resistance by inhibiting the activity of nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) [57].
Oxidative stress is closely associated with diabetes and causes deleterious consequences of diabetes [58]. OA could improve the antioxidant capacity in diabetic rats by attenuating the levels of NO and malonaldehyde (MDA), as well as enhancing the level of catalase (CAT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) [59][60]. In addition, OA was able to enhance the antioxidant function of mitochondria by increasing the expression of glutathione peroxidase 4 (Gpx4) and SOD [61]. Furthermore, OA was reported to improve the mitochondrial ultrastructure and function and antioxidant capacity by inhibiting MDA and ROS levels, as well as increasing CAT, SOD, and glutathione peroxidase (GSH-px) in diabetic rats [62][63][64].
Diabetes is associated with disorders of energy metabolism [65]. Lipid accumulation and the dysregulation of glucose homeostasis are significant causes of insulin resistance [66]. It was demonstrated that OA could improve diabetes by inhibiting the level of α-glucosidase and α-amylase [67]. Meanwhile, OA was able to improve diabetes in rats by stimulating insulin secretion [68] and decreasing blood glucose and blood lipid levels [69], increasing hepatic glycogen and muscle glycogen [70]. The research indicated that OA could prevent hyperglycemia by inhibiting glucose absorption and promoting the change of glucose to glycogen [71]. Elevated blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels (referred to as the prediabetic condition) occurred before the transition from normal to diabetic [72] and OA could improve glucose homeostasis via the reduction of blood glucose and HbA1c levels [73]. It was verified that OA affects diabetes, which was related to increasing glucose transporter-5 (GLUT-5) and GLUT-4 expressions and decreasing FAS and ACC-1 expressions [74]. In addition, OA was observed to maintain glucose homeostasis in rats by decreasing the activity of hexokinase, the expression of glycogen phosphorylase (GP), and increasing the expression of glycogen synthase (GS) [75]. Another study indicated that OA could accelerate glucose and lipid metabolism via increasing the level of PPARγ/α and its related regulators, as well as GLUT-4 and fatty acid transport protein-1 (FATP-1) proteins [76]. Furthermore, takeda G protein-coupled receptor 5 (TGR5) belongs to the g-protein-coupled receptors involved in various cellular physiological effects [77]. By activating the expression of TGR5, OA was able to decrease the blood glucose levels [78]. Based on the accumulated evidence, the imbalance of the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K)/protein kinase B (Akt) signaling pathway could cause the development of diabetes mellitus [79]. OA was verified to inhibit gluconeogenesis by reducing the level of Akt, forkhead box O1 (FoxO1), and glucose-6-phosphatase (G6Pase) [80]. It also exhibited that OA was able to accelerate glucose transport by increasing p-Akt levels and GS levels, as well as decreasing GP levels [81][82]. Furthermore, OA has positive effects on diabetes via increasing PI3K/Akt and AMPK phosphorylation, phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK), and G6Pase levels, as well as decreasing the level of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) [83]. It was discovered that OA could improve insulin resistance through the activation of the level of the insulin receptor substrate (IRS-1) and PI3K/Akt [84]. Moreover, OA may normalize insulin, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), IRS1, GLUT2, GLUT4, and Akt levels, and decrease TC, TG, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels [85]. Furthermore, OA could decrease insulin resistance by improving β-cells [86].
High-glucose environments have been found to cause endothelial cell dysfunction [87]. Research has shown that OA attenuated human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) function damage via activating PPARδ, increasing the phosphorylation of Akt and eNOS [88]. Furthermore, persistent hyperglycemia will change blood composition, such as erythrocyte morphology [89], and increase the production of erythropoietin (EPO) [90]. OA could improve diabetes by reducing plasma glucose, HbA1c, and EPO levels and increasing the antioxidant capacity of erythrocytes [91].
Complications caused by diabetes are also a leading cause of harm to human health, such as diabetic nephropathy [92]. Research reported that OA could protect rats against diabetic nephropathy by restoring plasma aldosterone and renal injury molecule-1 [93]. In addition, advanced glycosylation end products, such as renal N-(carboxymethyl) lysine, HbA1c, and glycosylated albumin, are also related to the development of diabetic nephropathy [94]. OA was able to inhibit diabetic nephropathy via a reduction of the level of renal N-(carboxymethyl) lysine, HbA1c, urinary albumin, and urine glycated albumin, as well as increasing the level of plasma insulin and renal creatinine clearance [95]. Furthermore, OA could also restore the damaged renal structure by increasing insulin secretion, renal units, and endothelial-selective adhesion molecules, and decreasing urinary albumin/creatinine levels [96].
There is accumulating evidence that OA cures diabetes by decreasing inflammation, reducing oxidative stress, and protecting endothelial cell function. Furthermore, OA could enhance the glucose–lipid metabolism in diabetic rats, restore blood components damaged by high glucose levels, and alleviate diabetic nephropathy problems. To summarize, OA in the treatment of diabetes mellitus has shown tremendous potential and is supported by numerous pieces of research; however, this research may require additional clinical trials to confirm. The detailed pharmacological effects of OA on metabolic syndrome are shown in Table 1.

2. Anti-Cardiovascular Diseases Effects

2.1. Anti-Stroke

Stroke is one of the main causes of increased mortality [97], which is affected by inflammation, oxidative stress, and nerve damage [98].
The key mechanism in the formation of ischemic stroke is oxidative stress [99], which also causes neuronal apoptosis, inflammation, and nerve injury [100]. It was reported that OA reduced cerebral ischemic stroke damage by increasing the level of mitochondrial antioxidant α-tocopherol (α-TOC) and GSH, as well as decreasing the leakage of the damage marker lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) [101]. Furthermore, OA was able to improve oxidative stress in brain-injured rats; the results showed that OA treatment significantly increased the activity of SOD, GSH-Px, mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP), and succinate dehydrogenase (SDH), and decreased MDA and LDH levels [102]. Meanwhile, OA also could restrain the blood–brain barrier indicator occludin, matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP9), and Evans blue leakage, and inhibit oxidative indicator dihydroethidium fluorescence and MDA expression [103]. In addition, heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) is the most effective antioxidant response element, and glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β) is able to regulate HO-1 in controlling oxidative stress [104]. OA attenuated cytotoxicity and ROS via the regulation of the GSK-3β/HO-1 signal in rats [105].
In general, OA from natural product sources has neuroprotective functions, such as the improvement of the blood–brain barrier, reduction of nerve injury, and cerebral edema in mice; the mechanism was primarily associated with the improvement of oxidative damage. However, it remains to be determined whether OA in stroke treatment has a more promising mechanism.

2.2. Heart Protection

Heart disease has a high mortality rate, and the number of deaths is still rising [106]. Oxidative stress is a significant reason for heart disease; the elevated expression of ROS causes cardiomyocyte dysfunction and damage [107]. Research demonstrated that OA promoted the antioxidant capacity of the heart via the reduction level of the lipid peroxidation products [108]. Furthermore, OA was able to prevent diabetic cardiomyopathy through the regulation of HO-1/Nrf2 to increase SOD and GS, as well as decrease MDA and GP [109]. Meanwhile, OA was verified to prevent CVDs by improving the inflammatory reaction, MDA, SOD, GPx, as well as heart weight in rats [110]. In addition, OA could improve myocardial apoptosis by increasing the antioxidant capacity and decreasing apoptosis signaling caspase-3 and BAX activity, increasing Bcl-2 activity [111][112].
Endothelin 1 (ET-1) aggravates the development of CVDs [113], and OA could inhibit cardiomyocyte injury through the regulation of the expression of ET-1 [114]. Furthermore, ET-1 and NF-κB modulate the fibrotic process in the heart, as well as promote the expression of fibronectin in cardiac tissues [115]. OA could improve fibrotic hearts in rats by reducing the activation of NF-κB and ET-1 [116]. Moreover, the Akt/mTOR exacerbates the pathological process of myocardial remodeling [117]; OA performed cardiac protection with the inhibition of vascular remodeling by decreasing the levels of Akt and mTOR [118]. In addition, OA possessed the ability to suppress the platelet aggregation mediated by phospholipase C, thereby aiding in the prevention of cardiovascular thrombosis [119].
Therefore, current research demonstrates that OA could treat a variety of heart diseases, as well as prevent cardiac fibrosis and the cardiac remodeling process. The mechanism includes the inhibition of inflammation, oxidative stress, and the improvement of the expression of vasoconstrictive factors.

2.3. Anti-Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis (AS) is the underlying pathology of CVDs [120]. OA could prevent AS by inhibiting many pathological developments, such as oxidative stress, endothelial dysfunction, and lipid deposition. Oxidative stress was deemed the critical mechanism in AS [121]. Research demonstrated that OA may safeguard HUVECs damage by inhibiting the levels of lipoprotein receptor 1 (LOX-1), ROS, as well as hypoxia-inducible factor 1 α (HIF-1α) [122]. Moreover, OA has been confirmed to alleviate HUVECs damage via the reduction in the level of ROS and LOX-1, as well as enhancing the level of Nrf2/HO-1 [123].
PPARγ is considered a ligand-activated transcription factor that regulates the glycolipid metabolism, and adiponectin promotes fatty acid biosynthesis and inhibits hepatic gluconeogenesis [124]. OA could reduce lipids and enhance high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-c) by increasing PPARγ and adiponectin Receptor 1 (AdipoR1) Levels, decreasing AdopoR2 levels [125].
Farnesoid-X-receptor (FXR) is associated with the bile metabolism [126], and angiotensin1-7 (Ang1-7) has been implicated as an AS protector [127]. OA was found to decrease the levels of lipids in rats via the regulation of the expression of FXR and Ang1-7 [128]. In addition, OA inhibited the expression of iNOS, thereby delaying the progression of aortic stenosis [129].
In conclusion, OA can reduce the area of vascular lipid plaque and treat AS by protecting HUVECs, reducing inflammatory factors and the accumulation of lipids. The detailed pharmacological effects of OA on metabolic syndrome-related cardiovascular diseases are shown in Table 2.
Table 2. Pharmacological effects of OA in the treatment of CVDs.


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