Salsalate (Salicylate) Uncouples Mitochondria, Improves Glucose Homeostasis, and Reduces Liver Lipids Independent of AMPK-β1 Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Salsalate is a prodrug of salicylate that lowers blood glucose in patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D) and reduces nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in animal models; however, the mechanism mediating these effects is unclear. Salicylate directly activates AMPK via the β1 subunit, but whether salsalate requires AMPK-β1 to improve T2D and NAFLD has not been examined. Therefore, wild-type (WT) and AMPK-β1–knockout (AMPK-β1KO) mice were treated with a salsalate dose resulting in clinically relevant serum salicylate concentrations (∼1 mmol/L). Salsalate treatment increased VO2, lowered fasting glucose, improved glucose tolerance, and led to an ∼55% reduction in liver lipid content. These effects were observed in both WT and AMPK-β1KO mice. To explain these AMPK-independent effects, we found that salicylate increases oligomycin-insensitive respiration (state 4o) and directly increases mitochondrial proton conductance at clinical concentrations. This uncoupling effect is tightly correlated with the suppression of de novo lipogenesis. Salicylate is also able to stimulate brown adipose tissue respiration independent of uncoupling protein 1. These data indicate that the primary mechanism by which salsalate improves glucose homeostasis and NAFLD is via salicylate-driven mitochondrial uncoupling.


  • Smith, Brennan K
  • Ford, Rebecca J
  • Desjardins, Eric M
  • Green, Alex E
  • Hughes, Meghan C
  • Houde, Vanessa P
  • Day, Emily A
  • Marcinko, Katarina
  • Crane, Justin D
  • Mottillo, Emilio P
  • Perry, Christopher GR
  • Kemp, Bruce E
  • Tarnopolsky, Mark
  • Steinberg, Gregory

publication date

  • November 1, 2016