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Arctigenin is a natural compound that had never been previously demonstrated to have a glucose-lowering effect. Here it was found to activate AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), and the mechanism by which this occurred, as well as the effects on glucose and lipid metabolism were investigated.2-Deoxyglucose uptake and AMPK phosphorylation were examined in L6 myotubes and isolated skeletal muscle. Gluconeogenesis and lipid synthesis were evaluated in rat primary hepatocytes. The acute and chronic effects of arctigenin on metabolic abnormalities were observed in C57BL/6J and ob/ob mice. Changes in mitochondrial membrane potential were measured using the J-aggregate-forming dye, JC-1. Analysis of respiration of L6 myotubes or isolated mitochondria was conducted in a channel oxygen system.Arctigenin increased AMPK phosphorylation and stimulated glucose uptake in L6 myotubes and isolated skeletal muscles. In primary hepatocytes, it decreased gluconeogenesis and lipid synthesis. The enhancement of glucose uptake and suppression of hepatic gluconeogenesis and lipid synthesis by arctigenin were prevented by blockade of AMPK activation. The respiration of L6 myotubes or isolated mitochondria was inhibited by arctigenin with a specific effect on respiratory complex I. A single oral dose of arctigenin reduced gluconeogenesis in C57BL/6J mice. Chronic oral administration of arctigenin lowered blood glucose and improved lipid metabolism in ob/ob mice.This study demonstrates a new role for arctigenin as a potent indirect activator of AMPK via inhibition of respiratory complex I, with beneficial effects on metabolic disorders in ob/ob mice. This highlights the potential value of arctigenin as a possible treatment of type 2 diabetes.