Research Division of Food Functionality, Korea Food Research Institute, Wanju-gun, Jeollabuk-do, 55365, Republic of Korea; Department of Food Biotechnology, University of Science and Technology, Daejoen, 34113, Republic of Korea. Electronic address: [Email]
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a common risk factor for metabolic syndrome that increases the risk of future cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes. Recently, autophagy has been proposed as a means to prevent NAFLD. We investigated whether substances with autophagy-inducing activity alleviate NAFLD. The Valeriana fauriei (V. fauriei) was selected as a potential autophagy inducer among various natural materials using a Cyto-ID autophagy detection kit. V. fauriei 70 % ethanol extract (VFE) increased LC3II levels in the presence of the lysosomal inhibitor and reduced the GFP/mCherry puncta ratio, suggesting that VFE enhanced autophagy. VFE reduced oleic acid (OA)-induced lipid accumulation and increased the number of autophagosome in hepatocytes. Autophagy induction by VFE is due to inhibition of mTORC1 activity. VFE supplementation reduced fatty liver by downregulating lipogenesis-related genes and increased the autophagy, as revealed by TEM and IHC analysis in the fatty liver. We identified iridoids as main compounds of VFE; didrovaltrate (DI), valeriotriate B (VAL B), valeriotetrate C (VAL C), valtrate (VAL), and valechlorine (VC) were shown to enhance autophagy. These compounds also reduced OA-induced lipid accumulation in an Atg5-dependent manner. Taken together, VFE and its iridoids might be effective in alleviating fatty liver by acting as autophagy enhancers to break down LDs.