Cellular metabolism

The effects of Ginseng and its bioactive constituents on Cellular Homeostasis: Review of Ginseng's benefits for Mitochondrial Biogenesis and Autophagy.

  • Introduction
  • Mitochondrial biogenesis
  • Autophagy
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliographic references

Cellular homeostasis is at the core of health and is characterized by extremely complex biochemical processes. Among the myriad of purely metabolic mechanisms, there are also physiological cascades for the modulation of specific cellular functions. Among those, the cellular processes related to mitochondrial biogenesis and autophagy are critical for maintaining cellular homeostasis.

Korean ginseng and its most famous active constituents, ginsenosides, have been reported to influence those processes, which makes them a unique opportunity for innovative approach related to cellular health in general.

Mitochondrial biogenesis refers to the process of generating new mitochondria within a cell and is crucial factor in meeting optimal energy needs. One of the cornerstones of this complex molecular mechanism is the transcriptional co-activator PGC1α. Once activated, it stimulates the pathways of nuclear respiratory factors (Nrf1 & Nrf2) which not only leads to the generation of new mitochondria but also promotes the production of new enzymes related to ROS management, thus preventing cell damage.

Specific rare ginsenosides, like Rg3 [1-3], Rg5 [4] and Rd [5], have been identified as activators of the PGC1α pathway through AMPK kinase, leading to an increase of mitochondria biogenesis, as well as support of the mitochondrial functions through a good management of ROS.

Autophagy is a process of cellular self-degradation that is essential for removing damaged or unwanted cellular components, such as misfolded proteins and dysfunctional mitochondria. The regulation of autophagy is therefore an equivalent to a cellular repair process, which fascinates researchers in the context of longevity but is also critical at the digestive barrier levels to ensure its cellular integrity and a good relationship with the gut microbiota (i.e. avoiding oxygen availability for the microorganisms in the mucus).

One of the key regulators of autophagy is the sirtuins family, and more specifically SIRT1 and SIRT3 which both play a role in activating autophagy through deacetylation of various autophagy-related proteins. It should be noted that SIRT1 and SIRT3 are inextricably linked to the previously mentioned AMPK and PGC1α, leading to a constant interplay between mitochondrial biogenesis and autophagy, both of which are critical for maintaining cellular health and function.

Multiple ginsenosides like Rh2[6], Rk2[7], Rb1[8] and Rg1[9], have been identified as modulators of autophagy through SIRT1 (and AMPK / PGC1α) [10]. However, their influence can vary depending on the cellular conditions.

In conclusion, ginsenosides have shown a wide range of beneficial effects on cellular homeostasis, including the stimulation of mitochondrial biogenesis and modulation of autophagy. These effects are particularly relevant to the development of health products that can improve cellular function and promote overall wellbeing.

Moreover, by increasing mitochondrial biogenesis, ginsenosides can enhance cellular energy production, which can improve physical performance and reduce the risk of age-related diseases.

Additionally, by modulating autophagy, ginsenosides can promote the removal of damaged cellular components and enhance cellular recycling processes, which can reduce the risk of chronic diseases and support physiological recovery.

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