Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Antioxidant and pro-oxidant effects of oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) leaves extract in experimental diabetic nephropathy: a duration-dependent outcome

Rajavel Varatharajan1, Munavvar Zubaid Abdul Sattar2, Ivy Chung1, Mahmood Ameen Abdulla3, Normadiah M Kassim4 and Nor Azizan Abdullah1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

2 School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University Sains Malaysia, 11800 Penang, Malaysia

3 Department of Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

4 Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013, 13:242  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-242

Published: 29 September 2013



Catechins-rich oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) leaves extract (OPLE) is known to have antioxidant activity. Several polyphenolic compounds reported as antioxidants such as quercetin, catechins and gallic acid have been highlighted to have pro-oxidant activity at high doses. Therefore, the present study was conducted to investigate the antioxidant and pro-oxidant effects of chronically administering high dose of OPLE (1000 mg kg-1) in an animal model of diabetic nephropathy (DN).


Animal body weight, indexes of glycaemia, renal function and morphology were assessed in diabetic animals with and without OPLE (1000 mg kg-1) for 4 and 12 weeks respectively. Oxidative stress was quantified by measuring levels of 8-hydroxy-2’-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG), lipid peroxides (LPO) and reduced glutathione (GSH). Transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-β1), a key mediator of extracellular matrix accumulation, was analysed in plasma. The mechanisms of OPLE action were evaluated by assessing nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase subunits (p22phox and p67phox) expression.


Oral administration with high dose of catechins-rich OPLE (1000 mg kg-1) to STZ-induced diabetic rats for 4 weeks attenuated renal dysfunction (hyperfiltration, proteinuria) and development of glomerulosclerosis and tubulointerstitial fibrosis, features that are associated with DN. Suppression of increases in oxidative stress markers (8-OHdG, LPO) and the fibrotic cytokine, TGF-β1 was observed. OPLE also reduced renal expression of NADPH oxidase subunits p22phox and p67phox. In contrast and surprisingly, identical dose of OPLE when administered to diabetic animals for 12 weeks caused worsening of renal dysfunction, histopathology in addition to further elevation of oxidative stress marker (LPO) and TGF-β1. These unfavourable effects of prolonged treatment with 1000 mg kg-1 OPLE were accompanied by increase expression of one of the NADPH oxidase subunits, p22phox.


Our study indicates that chronic administration of 1000 mg kg-1 OPLE exerts both antioxidant and pro-oxidant effects in DN depending on the duration of treatment. The present study also reveals that the antioxidant/pro-oxidant effects of OPLE are in part, due to modulation of NADPH activity.

Diabetic nephropathy; Oil palm leaves extract; Kidney; Oxidative stress