Cocoa ameliorates renal injury in Zucker diabetic fatty rats by preventing oxidative stress, apoptosis and inactivation of autophagy
Redox balance, autophagy and apoptosis are main processes involved in the development of diabetic nephropathy. Epidemiological and animal studies suggest that cocoa might reduce the risk of diabetic complications. However, the molecular mechanisms responsible for these potential preventive activities and whether cocoa exerts beneficial effects on dysregulated signalling pathways involved in cellular antioxidant defence, autophagy and apoptosis in the diabetic kidney remain largely unknown. Therefore, this work investigated the effect of a cocoa-rich diet on the mentioned processes in the renal cortex of Zucker Diabetic Fatty (ZDF) rats. Male ZDF rats were fed either a control or cocoa-rich diet (10%), and Zucker lean animals received the control diet (10–20 weeks-of-life). ZDF rats fed with cocoa decreased body weight and glucose and insulin levels, and improved renal function. Cocoa intake further prevented the enhanced renal cortical oxidative stress in diabetic rats by regulating the antioxidant defence system and close-related proteins to cytoprotection and cell response; thus, cocoa diminished oxidative markers (reactive oxygen species and carbonyl groups) and NADPH-oxidase-4 levels, and restored key enzymatic antioxidant activities (superoxide dismutase and catalase), nuclear-erythroid-2-related factor-2, and ERK-MAPK levels, as well as sirtuin-1/5′-AMP-activated-protein kinase signalling. Moreover, in ZDF rats cocoa-rich diet contributed to alleviation of the renal cortical injury through autophagy activation (p62 upregulation, and downregulation of beclin-1 and LC3), and inhibition of apoptosis (Bcl-xL stimulation and suppression of Bax and caspases-9 and -3). These findings provide the first in vivo evidence on the molecular mechanisms of cocoa to circumvent renal cortical damage that involve improvement of antioxidant competences, stimulation of autophagy and suppression of apoptosis in ZDF rats.