Leptin resistance is a hallmark of obesity with unclear etiology. Celastrol, a compound found in the roots of the Tripterygium wilfordii and known to reduce endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, has recently emerged as a promising candidate to treat obesity by improving leptin sensitivity. However, the underlying neural mechanisms by which celastrol reduces obesity remain unclear. Using three different mouse models of obesity—diet-induced obesity (DIO), leptin receptor (LepR)-null, and melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R)-null mice—in this study, we show that systemic celastrol administration substantially reduces food intake and body weight in MC4R-null comparable to DIO, proving the MC4R-independent antiobesity effect of celastrol. Body weight reduction was due to decreases in both fat and lean mass, and modest but significant body weight reduction was also observed in nonobese wild-type and LepR-null mice. Unexpectedly, celastrol upregulated proinflammatory cytokines without affecting genes involved in ER stress. Importantly, celastrol steadily increased sympathetic nerve activity to the brown fat and kidney with concordant increases of resting metabolic rate and arterial pressure. Our results suggest a previously unappreciated mechanism of action of celastrol in the regulation of energy homeostasis and highlight the need for careful consideration of its development as a safe antiobesity medication.
- Received October 30, 2018.
- Accepted March 15, 2019.
- © 2019 by the American Diabetes Association.