The cruciferous Diplotaxis simplex: Phytochemistry analysis and its protective effect on liver and kidney toxicities, and lipid profile disorders in alloxan-induced diabetic rats
© The Author(s). 2017
Received: 27 April 2017
Accepted: 22 May 2017
Published: 30 May 2017
Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a prevalent systemic disease affecting an important proportion of the population worldwide. It has been suggested that excessive reactive oxygen species generation and therefore development of an oxidative stress status is a key factor leading to diabetic complications. Accordingly, it seems that medicinal plants can offer a wide range of new antidiabetic drugs. Diplotaxis simplex (Viv.) Spreng. (Brassicaceae) is an edible plant largely distributed in the Mediterranean region. D. simplex flowers display important in vitro antioxidant potential and inhibitory activity of the α-glucosidase, a key enzyme linked to type 2 diabetes mellitus. In this paper, the antihyperglycemic potential of D. simplex flowers on diabetic rats were investigated.
Bioactive substances were determined by liquid chromatography-high resolution electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (LC-HRESIMS) analysis. Animals were divided into four groups of six rats each: a normal control group, a diabetic control group, a diabetic group receiving flowers extract (200 mg/kg body mass) and a diabetic group receiving acarbose (10 mg/kg body mass) as standard drug.
Many glycosides of rhamnetin, isorhamnetin, quercetin and kaempferol compounds were identified in the ethanolic flowers extract. Alloxan induced hyperglycemia, manifested by a significant (p < 0.05) increase in the blood glucose level as well as in serum α-amylase activity. Furthermore, diabetic rats exhibited oxidative stress, as evidenced by a decrease in antioxidant enzymes activities and an increase in lipid peroxidation level of the pancreas, liver and kidneys. Interestingly, the oral administration of D. simplex flowers extract during 30 days restored the glycemia, α-amylase activity, serum lipid profile and antioxidant enzymes. Moreover, the flowers extract exhibited a renal protective role by decreasing the urea and creatinine levels in diabetic rats serum.
D. simplex flowers contained bioactive compounds that possess important antioxidant and hypoglycemic properties and protected pancreas, liver and kidneys against hyperglycemia damage.
Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), characterized by persistent hyperglycemia, is a chronic metabolic disorder resulting from defects in insulin secretion and/or its action. It represents a major public health problem in all countries around the world. The diabetes prevalence has been steadily increasing for the last three decades and is growing more rapidly in low- and middle-income countries due to the increased factors that lead to T2DM such as overweight and obesity. The World Health Organization  estimates that 422 million adults, representing 8.5% among the population, were living with diabetes in 2014. Hyperglycemia is one of the crucial factors responsible for reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation and therefore the development of an oxidative stress status. In fact, oxidative stress is considered as the pathogenic mechanism linking insulin resistance, β- and endothelial cells dysfunction, and eventually leading to T2DM and its complications, such as cardiovascular disease, nephropathy, neuropathy and retinopathy [2, 3]. In 2012 alone diabetes caused 1.5 million deaths .
Liver and kidneys are considered as the major organs involved in the xenobiotics excretion. The liver plays a crucial role in the elimination and biotransformation of toxic chemicals. During detoxification, ROS are generated within hepatocytes causing hepatotoxicity or liver damage . Moreover, the kidneys are highly vulnerable to oxidative stress damage, likely due to the abundance of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the renal lipids composition. In fact, ROS are involved in the pathogenic mechanisms such as glomerulosclerosis and tubulointerstitial fibrosis . Thus, liver and kidneys’ protection remains the major clinical challenge including the development of new substances of herbal origin that can be considered as a useful, safe and effective co-supplement to prevent these vital organs from toxicity risks.
To be protected against the ROS toxic effects, the organisms provide enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants defense systems. Superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT) and glutathione peroxidase (GPX) are the major antioxidant enzymes. SOD is responsible for fast conversion of superoxide radicals to H2O2 and is considered as the first enzyme involved in the detoxifying process, while CAT eliminates H2O2 by its conversion into H2O and O2. GPX is also considered to be a powerful ROS scavenger by its broader substrate specifications and strong affinity for H2O2 . Our antioxidant system is incomplete without the exogenous reducing compounds such as vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids and particularly phenolic compounds that quench the excess of ROS. Thus, dietary antioxidants play a key role in reinforcing the cellular antioxidant system. Accordingly, there is a growing interest in using new natural antioxidants to prevent metabolic disorders where oxidative stress is the key factor in health physiopathology .
Pancreatic α-amylase and α-glucosidase are responsible for the polysaccharides conversion into glucose that enters in the blood stream. The inhibition of these enzymes is considered as a therapeutic approach to diabetes. In fact, the reduction in carbohydrates digestion reduces the glucose absorption rate and thus decreases the blood glucose level . Some inhibitors such as miglitol, voglibose and acarbose are currently used in clinical practice. Nevertheless, these drugs have some side effects such as diarrhea, flatulence, bloating and abdominal discomfort . Therefore, the search of more safer, specific and effective hypoglycemic agents is in continuous interest. In particular, medicinal plants can offer a wide range of new antidiabetic drugs . Regardless their origin, natural substances show various physiological and therapeutic benefits and they are considered as a natural gift for human health promotion. In this context, many investigations reported that plant extracts may provide a preventive effect against diabetes and its complications in animal models .
Diplotaxis simplex (Viv.) Spreng. (Brassicaceae) is an edible plant largely distributed in the Mediterranean region. This herb is appreciated for its strong pungent flavour and it is consumed raw or cooked, in salads and soups. In our previous work, D. simplex flowers were shown to present an interesting in vitro inhibition of α-glucosidase activity and effectively reduce the rise in blood glucose level of maltose-loaded mice as compared to the standard acarbose . Moreover, D. simplex flowers exhibited important antioxidant potential as determined by various complementary methods . However, there are no studies on the bioactive substances identification in D. simplex flowers and their hypoglycemic effect in diabetic rats. Therefore, the aim of the present work is to assess the hypoglycemic effect of D. simplex flowers in alloxan-induced diabetic rats. The effect of D. simplex flowers ethanolic extract (DSEE) on antioxidant enzyme activities, lipid peroxidation, liver and kidney toxicities, and serum lipid profile was investigated. Furthermore, the DSEE was analyzed by Liquid Chromatography-High Resolution Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry (LC-HRESIMS) technique in order to identify the bioactive compounds frequently associated with the antioxidant activity.
Diplotaxis simplex (Viv.) Spreng. (Brassicaceae) was collected from south-eastern Tunisia (Medenine). A voucher specimen is deposited at the High Institute of Applied Biology of Medenine (Medenine, Tunisia) under the number Ds02. After harvest, the flowers were separated, shade-dried for 20 days, ground into fine powder and then stored in the dark at 4 °C until use.
Preparation of D. simplex extract
The dried powder of the D. simplex flowers (25 g) was subjected to Soxhlet-extraction with 300 ml ethanol during 6 h. After that, the solvent was evaporated using a rotary evaporator and then totally removed by flushing with nitrogen. Finally, the D. simplex flowers ethanolic extract (DSEE) was kept in the dark at 4 °C until further analysis.
One hundred mg of the DSEE was dissolved in 100 ml of 10% methanol, filtered through 0.45 μm filter, and then 1 ml was transferred into LC-MS vials. Reversed-phase column (Pursuit XRs ULTRA 2.8, C18, 100 mm × 2 mm i.d., Agilent Technologies, UK) and a diode array detector were used to carry out HPLC analysis. Twenty μl of the sample were injected into the column set at 30 °C. The Mobile phases consisted of 0.1% formic acid in water (A) and 0.1% formic acid in methanol (B). The gradient program used for separation consisted of 100% solvent A, with a linear gradient of 100% solvent B over 20 min, hold at 100% solvent B for 5 min and 100% solvent A for 25 min. The elution was performed with a rate of 1 ml/min and the drying gas flow rate was 1 ml/min at 320 °C. The mass spectrometer (MS) was operated in the positive ion mode in a mass range of 100–2000 m/z. High resolution mass spectral data were obtained on a Thermo Instruments ESI-MS system (LTQ XL/LTQ Orbitrap Discovery, UK) connected to a Thermo Instruments HPLC system (Accela PDA detector, Accela PDA autosampler and Accela Pump).
Animals and treatments
Adult Wistar male rats weighing between 160-200 g were obtained from the Central Pharmacy of Tunisia (SIPHAT, Tunis, Tunisia). The animals were maintained under standard environmental conditions of temperature (24 ± 4 °C), relative humidity (45–55%), a 12 h dark/light cycle, with ad libitum access to food, pellet diet (SICO, Sfax, Tunisia), and water. The handling of the animals was approved by the Medical Ethics Committee for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals of the Pasteur Institute of Tunis (approval number: FST/LNFP/Pro 152012) and carried out according to the European convention for the protection of living animals used in scientific investigations .
group 1: normal rats considered as non diabetic animals and referred to as “Control”;
group 2: diabetic control rats referred to as “Diab”;
group 3: diabetic rats treated with DSEE (200 mg/kg BM) administrated by gastric gavage and referred to as “Diab + DSEE”;
group 4: diabetic rats treated with acarbose (10 mg/kg BM) administrated by gastric gavage and referred to as “Diab + Acar”.
Four weeks later, the rats were sacrificed by decapitation and their trunk bloods were collected. The serum was prepared by centrifugation (3000 × g, 15 min, 4 °C) and then stored at −80 °C until use. In addition, liver, kidney and pancreas were carefully removed, cleaned from fat and then homogenized in 10 mM phosphate buffer pH 7.4, 150 mM NaCl. After centrifugation (5000 × g, 20 min, 4 °C), the supernatants were collected and stored at −80 °C until use for biochemical assays.
The analyses of the serum lipid levels of triglycerides (TG), total-cholesterol (T-Ch), high density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-Ch) and low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-Ch) as well as the serum α-amylase, aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activities, urea, creatinine and blood glucose level were performed using commercial kits (Biolabo, Maizy, France) on an automatic biochemical analyzer (Vitalab Flexor E, Spankeren, Netherlands) in the biochemical laboratory of Hedi Chaker Hospital (Sfax, Tunisia).
Lipid peroxidation in the liver, kidney and pancreas of different groups was measured by the quantification of thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) determined by the method of Yoshioka et al. . Catalase (CAT) activity was measured as previously described by Mueller et al.  and expressed as μmol H2O2/min/mg protein. Superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity was measured by the method of Marklund and Marklund  and expressed as U/mg protein. Glutathione peroxidase (GPX) activity was measured by the method described by Paglia et al.  and expressed as μmol GSH/min/mg protein. Protein concentration was determined as previously described  using bovine serum albumin (E1% 1cm = 6.7) as standard.
The pancreas, liver and kidneys samples from rats of different treatments were fixed in Bouin solution for 24 h, embedded in paraffin and then sections of 5 μm thickness were stained with hematoxylin-eosin. The slides were photographed with an Olympus U-TU1X-2 camera linked to an Olympus CX41 microscope (Olympus, Tokyo, Japan).
All analytical determinations were performed at least in duplicate for six animals per group. One-way analysis of variance was conducted using the SPSS software for Windows™ (version 17, SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA). Duncan’s multiple range test (p < 0.05) was used to compare the average responses between treatments.
Results and discussion
LC-HRESIMS analysis of the D. simplex flowers ethanolic extract
Previous studies also showed that many of the identified compounds in the DSEE were reported in other cruciferous species and they exhibited interesting biological properties. Indeed, the flavonoids 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 were previously reported on aerial parts of Diplotaxis harra . Kassem et al.  also showed that the pure flavonoids isorhamnetin 7-O-β-D-glucopyranoside, isorhamnetin 3-O-β-D-glucopyranoside-4’-O-β-D-xylopyranoside and kaempferol 3-O-β-D-glucopyranoside-4’-O-β-D-xylopyranoside (compounds 4, 6 and 11, respectively) present antiviral activity against foot-and-mouth disease viruses. Furthermore, the isolated flavonoids isorhamnetin 7-O-β-D-glucopyranoside, quercetin, quercetin 3-O-β-D-glucopyranoside and kaempferol 3-O-β-D-glucopyranoside (compounds 4, 7, 8 and 10, respectively) from aerial parts of D. harra showed cytotoxicity against HCT116 cell line with IC50 values of 20.1, 24.3, 22.8 and 41.9 μg/ml, respectively . Haraguchi et al.  reported that quercetin (compound 7) and quercetin 3-O-β-D-glucopyranoside (compound 8) exhibit an inhibitory activity of aldose reductase, the principal enzyme of polyol pathway, which plays a vital role in the development of diabetic complications. Indeed, the IC50 values relative to aldose reductase activity inhibition of compounds 7 and 8 were found to be 15.2 and 7.4 μg/ml, respectively . Legault et al.  also mentioned that quercetin-7-O-β-D-glucopyranoside (compound 9) possesses important anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting NO release, inducible nitric oxide synthase and cyclooxygenase-2 expression, and granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor overproduction. On the other hand, the flavonol diglycoside rhamnetin 3,3’-di-O-β-D-glucopyranoside (compound 1), that was previously isolated from Diplotaxis virgata and Diplotaxis erucoides, exhibited an interesting antibacterial activity .
In addition to flavonoids, two alkaloids tenualexin (compound 12) and arvelexin (compound 13) were identified (Table 1). The tenualexin (2-(1,4-dimethoxy-1H-indol-3-yl) acetonitrile) is a cruciferous phytoalexin that was previously isolated from Diplotaxis tenuisiliqua. Pedras and Yaya  reported that tenualexin appears to be one of the broad-range antifungals occurring in crucifers, which suggesting that D. tenuisiliqua could have disease resistance traits of interest in commercial breeding programs. The arvelexin (4-methoxyindole-3-acetonitrile) is a biologically active compound found in Brassica rapa (Brassicaceae) that is able to inhibit colonic inflammation by suppressing NF-κB activation in dextran sulfate sodium-induced mice and TNF-α-induced colonic epithelial cells . The anti-inflammatory activity of compounds 9 and 13 was consistent with our previous findings suggesting that D. simplex flowers presented anti-inflammatory potential by reducing the paw oedema in mice, 4 h post carrageenan challenge .
Table 1 also shows that some compounds were identified for the first time in the cruciferous species such as the triglycoside rhamnetin 3-O-β-D-galactopyranoside-3’,4’-di-O-β-D-glucopyranoside (compound 2) that was previously isolated from the aerial parts of Anthyllis onobrychioides . Moreover, the monocyclic triterpene esters such as iristectorene B (compound 14) and iristectorene G (compound 15) were isolated from the seeds of Iris tectorum .
DSEE effect on the blood glucose level and α-amylase activity
Evaluation of the antioxidant enzymes activities and lipid peroxidation in liver, pancreas and kidneys tissues
Antioxidant enzyme activities (CAT, SOD and GPX) and lipid peroxidation (TBARS) in liver, pancreas and kidneys tissues
Diab + DSEE
Diab + Acar
CAT (μmol H2O2/min/mg)
2.89 ± 0.46
1.34 ± 0.08ac
2.83 ± 0.07bc
4.08 ± 0.86ab
9.83 ± 0.51
4.20 ± 0.65ac
9.44 ± 0.83bc
7.18 ± 0.68ab
GPX (μmol GSH/min/mg) (×10−3)
0.79 ± 0.09
0.42 ± 0.10ac
0.75 ± 0.13b
0.90 ± 0.07b
0.10 ± 0.01
0.52 ± 0.10ac
0.10 ± 0.01b
0.10 ± 0.01b
CAT (μmol H2O2/min/mg)
5.19 ± 0.07
3.10 ± 0.75ac
4.71 ± 0.28ab
4.35 ± 0.39ab
7.60 ± 0.71
2.95 ± 0.65ac
6.47 ± 0.21ab
6.54 ± 0.41ab
GPX (μmol GSH/min/mg) (×10−2)
1.82 ± 0.08
0.92 ± 0.03ac
1.89 ± 0.10bc
1.38 ± 0.16ab
0.22 ± 0.01
0.38 ± 0.02ac
0.26 ± 0.01*ab
0.27 ± 0.01ab
CAT (μmol H2O2/min/mg)
4.72 ± 0.44
2.28 ± 0.23ac
3.30 ± 0.12ab
3.22 ± 0.25ab
13.07 ± 0.23
3.81 ± 0.85ac
12.13 ± 0.88bc
10.40 ± 0.71ab
GPX (μmol GSH/min/mg) (×10−3)
2.56 ± 0.19
0.76 ± 0.11ac
1.29 ± 0.32ab
1.28 ± 0.22ab
0.15 ± 0.03
0.43 ± 0.03ac
0.20 ± 0.05b
0.28 ± 0.10b
On the one hand, the obtained data could be explained by the important antioxidant properties of D. simplex flowers since several studies suggest that acute effects of hyperglycemia are counterbalanced by antioxidants . In fact, the observed in vivo antioxidant effect of DSEE was in agreement with (i) the interesting in vitro antioxidant potential of D. simplex flowers that was previously reported  and (ii) the various identified flavonoids that were known by their potent scavenging activity (Table 1). Thus, the DSEE regular consumption enhanced the fight against oxidative stress that might indirectly correct the diabetic state and restore the homeostasis.
On the other hand, the observed effects of the DSEE treatment could be also explained by its inhibitory potential of the key-enzymes linked to T2DM as was noted by the acarbose treatment. In fact, Jdir et al.  demonstrated that D. simplex flowers extract shows an important in vitro inhibitory activity of the α-glucosidase (IC50 = 0.046 mg/ml). The postprandial hyperglycemia itself produces an oxidative stress so that specific inhibition of intestinal glucose absorption that lowers postprandial hyperglycemia may be expected to reduce oxidative stress .
DSEE effect on hepatic dysfunction parameters and lipid profile
Liver-kidneys toxicities indices
Diab + DSEE
Diab + Acar
Liver toxicity indices
170.33 ± 4.60
276 ± 21.27ac
199.71 ± 6.84b
177.87 ± 3.85b
53.16 ± 3.70
68 ± 2.24ac
53.83 ± 0.86b
51.37 ± 1.81b
784.66 ± 75.8
1231.8 ± 115.63ac
799.16 ± 52.06b
701.66 ± 19.63b
Kidneys toxicity indices
5.80 ± 0.22
8.78 ± 0.20ac
7.03 ± 0.15b
6.91 ± 0.62b
27.57 ± 0.35
31.02 ± 0.60ac
26.89 ± 0.38b
28.05 ± 0.56b
Serum lipids levels of triglycerides (TG), total − cholesterol (T-Ch), high density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-Ch) and low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-Ch)
Serum lipid profile
Diab + DSEE
Diab + Acar
1.30 ± 0.01
1.43 ± 0.02ac
1.32 ± 0.09b
1.25 ± 0.03b
1.39 ± 0.04
1.80 ± 0.01ac
1.49 ± 0.07bc
1.30 ± 0.07b
0.60 ± 0.07
0.72 ± 0.02ac
0.60 ± 0.05b
0.63 ± 0.01b
0.41 ± 0.01
0.38 ± 0.01ac
0.42 ± 0.02b
0.41 ± 0.01b
DSEE effect on the renal dysfunction indices
Table 3 presents the kidneys toxicity indices of control and treated rats. The obtained results showed that hyperglycemia increased the urea and creatinine levels by 51 and 12%, respectively in diabetic rat serum as compared to control group. Interestingly, the DSEE or acarbose administration to diabetic rats improved the indices related to kidney dysfunction induced by diabetes. In fact, the DSEE administration to diabetic rats significantly (p < 0.05) decreased the urea and creatinine levels by 20% and 13%, respectively, which is consistent with previous studies . As compared to normal individuals, high urea and creatinine levels represent important kidney dysfunction markers . Thus, it can be concluded that diabetic rats suffer from renal disorders due to the protein glycation that lead to the muscle loss as well as to the increase of purine release, which is the main uric acid source . The alleviation of kidneys dysfunction parameters could be explained by the attenuation of oxidative stress situation via serum glucose level regulation.
It is evident that diabetic state induces oxidative stress, which contributes to the activation of various downstream signaling cascade causing structural and functional damages in different organs. The present study interestingly revealed that administration of D. simplex flowers extract during 30 days protected against alloxan-induced hyperglycemia and limited the extent of the pancreas, liver and kidneys histopathological injuries. Taking into consideration the demonstrated protective potential, these results encourage further exploration of Diplotaxis simplex flowers in preventing diseases arising from oxidative damage.
Special thanks go to Dr Ola Abdelhedi (ENIS) for her fruitful discussions as well as to Miss Amina Gammoudi (ISBAM) for her kind help with English.
Availability of data and materials
The data that support the findings of this study are available upon request to the corresponding author.
HJ contributed to the main points of the work, which is a part of her Ph. D. RK and KH are physiologists who contributed to the handling of animals and histological analyses. NF supervised the biochemical analyses. ZN designed and wrote the work. Authors read and approved the final manuscript.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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