Background: Endothelial dysfunction plays a key role in diabetic
atherosclerosis. High glucose (HG) is considered a stimulator in the development of
diabetic atherosclerosis. The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response is involved in
HG-induced vascular injury. Crocin has antioxidative and antiapoptotic properties.
Objective: The current study was to evaluate whether crocin can protect human
umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) from HG-induced injury and explored the
Methods: HUVECs were treated with 33 mmol/L glucose as the HG condition. The
endothelial protective effects of crocin were evaluated by comparison with the control
Results: The exposure of HUVECs to HG for 24 h remarkably induced the ER stress
response and a sequence of injuries, as demonstrated an increase in the apoptotic cell
number, the reactive oxygen species level and inflammatory cytokine generation, as well
as a decline in vascular endothelial growth factor A expression. These changes were
markedly alleviated by pretreating the HUVECs with either crocin or 4-phenylbutyrate
(ER stress inhibitor) before exposure to HG.
Conclusion: Crocin exerted antioxidative, antiapoptotic, anti-inflammatory and
proangiogenic effects in the HG-induced HUVEC injury model, which were probably
mediated by a favorable modification of ER stress that requires further investigation.