Background: Emodin has been widely used in traditional Chinese medicine, but few studies have tried to understand the mechanism of its anti-hypercholesterolemic effect. Material/Methods: To delineate the underlying pathways, high-cholesterol diet (HCD)-fed Sprague-Dawley rats were orally administrated emodin or the lipid-lowering medicine simvastatin. Emodin was administered at 10, 30, or 100 mg/kg, while simvastatin was administered at 10 mg/kg. Parameters measured included lipid profiles (serum total cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, aorta endothelium-dependent vasorelaxation in response to acetylcholine, and nitric oxide (NO) production. RT-qPCR and western blotting were performed to evaluate aortic endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), phosphorylated eNOS (p-eNOS), and hepatic LDL receptor (LDLR). Indices of liver and serum oxidation were also measured. Results: The atherogenic index was increased by the HCD but significantly reduced in all treatment groups. The HCD-fed experimental group treated with emodin at 10 mg/kg had significantly lower serum total-C and LDL-C and improved aorta vasorelaxation and enhanced NO production. Also, emodin significantly attenuated the lipid profiles and restored endothelial function, as reflected by upregulated expression of hepatic LDLR and p-eNOS, respectively. Furthermore, emodin at 10 mg/kg significantly enhanced superoxide dismutase activity, lowered the malondialdehyde level in both liver and serum, and enhanced catalase activity in serum. Conclusions: The ability of emodin to inhibit hypercholesterolemia in HCD-fed rats was associated with lower serum total-C and LDL-C, restoration of aortic endothelial function, and improved antioxidant capacity. Low-dose emodin showed better protection of aortic endothelium and better antioxidant activity than did higher doses.
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