The incidence and progression of type 2 diabetes are closely related to pancreatic β-cell damage. Oxidative stress may be one of the key factors contributing to β-cell apoptosis. Opuntia milpa alta polysaccharides (MAPs) are water-soluble macromolecular polysaccharides that have antidiabetic effects in vivo. Therefore, we hypothesized that MAPs might effectively prevent β-cell apoptosis via the inhibition of oxidative damages. In this study, INS-1 cells were exposed to alloxan with different concentrations of MAPs in vitro, and the cell viability, oxidative enzyme activities, nitric oxide production, reactive oxygen species production, apoptosis, and the expression of proteins in the antioxidant nucleus transcription factor NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) pathway and proteins related to apoptosis were measured to assess oxidative stress responses and apoptosis. The results indicated that INS-1 cell viabilities and superoxide dismutase and reduced glutathione activities were significantly restored, whereas lactate dehydrogenase releases and reactive oxygen species, nitric oxide, and malondialdehyde levels were greatly decreased after MAPs treatment. We found that MAPs could attenuate alloxan-induced apoptosis by increasing the expression of Bcl-2 and decreasing the expression of Bax and the activities of caspase-3 and caspase-9. The results of Western blot revealed that MAPs suppressed the expression of cleaved caspase-3 and cleaved PARP and upregulated the expression of nucleus Nrf2 and its downstream protein. These findings indicated that MAPs could alleviate alloxan-induced β-cell apoptosis by reducing oxidative stress and upregulating Nrf2 expression.
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