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Mechanism of Formononetin-induced Stimulation of Adipocyte Fatty Acid Oxidation and Preadipocyte Differentiation

1Department of Nutrition, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003

2National Academy of Agricultural Science, Rural Development Administration, Jeonju, Korea

3Department of Food and Nutrition, Hannam University, Daejeon, 34054 Korea

4Department of Food Science and Biotechnology, Kangwon National University, Chuncheon, Korea

Journal of Food and Nutrition Research. 2021, Vol. 9 No. 3, 163-169
DOI: 10.12691/jfnr-9-3-9
Copyright © 2021 Science and Education Publishing

Cite this paper:
Seok-Yeong Yu, Youngmin Choi, Young-In Kwon, Ok-Hwan Lee, Young-Cheul Kim. Mechanism of Formononetin-induced Stimulation of Adipocyte Fatty Acid Oxidation and Preadipocyte Differentiation. Journal of Food and Nutrition Research. 2021; 9(3):163-169. doi: 10.12691/jfnr-9-3-9.

Correspondence to: Young-Cheul  Kim, Department of Nutrition, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003. Email:


Decreased adipocyte fatty acid oxidation (FAO) and impaired preadipocyte differentiation characterize hypertrophic expansion of adipose tissue (AT) from obese and insulin resistant humans and are recognized as potential mechanisms for obesity-mediated dyslipidemia. Supplementation of formononetin (FMN), one of the principal isoflavones extracted from red clover or Huangqi (Astragalus roots), has been shown to have beneficial effects on obesity-related hyperlipidemia, a well-established cardiovascular risk factor. However, a target tissue and underlying mechanism(s) through which FMN acts have been under-investigated. Thus, we investigated whether FMN promotes adipocyte FAO and preadipocyte differentiation using 3T3-L1 preadipocytes to provide potential mechanisms of FMN action. We further extended this to the culture of 10T1/2 mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) as well as mouse AT explants to reflect in vivo effects of FMN. In fully differentiated 3T3-L1 adipocytes, FMN-treatment significantly increased the expression levels of FAO-related proteins such as pAMPK, pACC, and CPT1, all of which were consistently upregulated in AT explant cultures treated with 10 μM FMN. In addition, FMN significantly enhanced the degree of differentiation of both 3T3-L1 preadipocytes and 10T1/2 MSCs into adipocytes as evidenced by Oil Red O staining of cellular lipids. This observation correlated with increased expression levels of key adipogenic transcription factors (PPARγ and C/EBPα) and their down-stream target proteins (FABP4, Glut4 and adiponectin). Moreover, FMN failed to exert its stimulatory effects on preadipocyte differentiation in both cell types in the presence of a PPARγ antagonist, suggesting a PPARγ-dependent effect of FMN. Collectively, these data provide possible mechanisms of action of FMN on lipid metabolism and further support the favorable in vivo effects of FMN in diet and obesity-induced dyslipidemia.