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Journal of Cancer Prevention

Original Article

Journal of Cancer Prevention 2015; 20(1): 41-49

Published online March 30, 2015

© Korean Society of Cancer Prevention

Carnosic Acid Inhibits Lipid Accumulation in 3T3-L1 Adipocytes Through Attenuation of Fatty Acid Desaturation

Mi-Young Park1, and Mi-Kyung Sung2

1Department of Food and Nutrition Education, Graduate School of Education, Soonchunhyang University, Asan, 2Department of Food and Nutrition, College of Human Ecology, Sookmyung Women’s University, Seoul, Korea

Correspondence to :
Mi-Kyung Sung, Department of Food and Nutrition, College of Human Ecology, Sookmyung Women’s University, 100 Cheongpa-ro 47-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul 140-742, Korea, Tel: +82-2-710-9395, Fax: +82-2-710-9453, E-mail:, ORCID: Mi-Kyung Sung,

Received: December 30, 2014; Revised: February 27, 2015; Accepted: February 27, 2015

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



Excess body fat accumulation contributes to the development of metabolic disorders that can cause adverse health effects. Carnosic acid (CA), a major bioactive component of rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis), has been suggested to possess anti-adipogenic properties. The present study was conducted to elucidate the mechanism underlying the anti-adipogenic effects of CA.


3T3-L1 pre-adipocytes were treated with CA (0.1, 1, and 10 μM) from day 0 to day 8 of differentiation. On day 8, biochemical markers of lipid accumulation and the degree of fatty acid desaturation were measured.


Oil Red O staining results, triglyceride (TG) accumulation, and glycerol 3-phosphate dehydrogenase activity suggested that CA significantly inhibited lipid accumulation in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. CA significantly decreased mRNA expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ, sterol regulatory element-binding protein 1, and CCAAT/enhancer binding protein-α in a dose-dependent manner. Moreover, it decreased the ratio of both C16:1/C16:0 and C18:1/C18:0, with reduced expression of stearoyl CoA desaturase 1 mRNA and protein.


These results suggest that CA efficiently suppressed adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 adipocytes and its action, at least in part, is associated with the downregulation of adipogenesis-related genes and the fatty acid composition of TG accumulated in adipocytes.

Keywords: 3T3-L1 adipocytes, Carnosic acid, Differentiation, Fatty acid

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