Diabetic retinopathy is a major diabetic complication predominantly caused by vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-induced vascular permeability in the retina; however, treatments targeting glycemic control have not been successful. Here, we investigated the protective effect of dammarenediol-II, a precursor of triterpenoid saponin biosynthesis, on VEGF-induced vascular leakage using human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) and diabetic mice. We overproduced the compound in transgenic tobacco expressingPanax ginsengdammarenediol-II synthase gene and purified using column chromatography. Analysis of the purified compound using a gas chromatography–mass spectrometry system revealed identical retention time and fragmentation pattern to those of authentic standard dammarenediol-II. Dammarenediol-II inhibited VEGF-induced intracellular reactive oxygen species generation, but it had no effect on the levels of intracellular Ca2+ in HUVECs. We also found that dammarenediol-II inhibited VEGF-induced stress fiber formation and vascular endothelial-cadherin disruption, both of which play critical roles in modulating endothelial permeability. Notably, microvascular leakage in the retina of diabetic mice was successfully inhibited by intravitreal dammarenediol-II injection. Our results suggest that the natural drug dammarenediol-II may have the ability to prevent diabetic microvascular complications, including diabetic retinopathy. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.