Ethnopharmacological relevance: The overall therapeutic effect of traditional Chinese medicine formulae (TCMF) was achieved by the interactions of multiple components with multiple targets. However, current pharmacology research strategies have struggled to identify effective substance groups and encountered challenges in elucidating the underlying mechanisms of TCMF. Aim: In this study, a comprehensive strategy was proposed and applied to elucidate the interactions of the multiple components that underlie the functions of the famous TCMF: Xian-Ling-Gu-Bao (XLGB) capsule on bone metabolism in vivo and to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying the effects of XLGB on bone cells, especially on osteoblasts. Methods: The efficacy of XLGB in the protection against bones loss in ovariectomized (OVX) rats was confirmed by Micro-CT analysis. The anti-osteoporosis mechanism involved in the systemic regulatory actions of XLGB was elucidated by transcriptome sequencing analysis on bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells isolated from OVX rats. Moreover, the components absorbed in XLGB-treated plasma were characterized by mass spectrometry analysis, and subsequently, a standardized preparation process of drug-containing plasma was established. The synergistic osteogenic effect of the multiple components in plasma was investigated by a combination and then knockout of components using pre-osteoblast MC3T3-E1 cells. In order to decipher the underlying mechanism of XLGB, the targets of the absorbed components on bone were predicted by target prediction and network pharmacology analysis, then several interactions were validated by biochemical and cell-based assay. Results: A total of 18 genes, including HDC, CXCL1/2, TNF, IL6 and Il1b, were newly found to be the major target genes regulated by XLGB. Interestingly, we found that a combination of the three absorbed components, i.e. MSP, rather than their single form at the same concentration, stimulated the formation of calcified nodules in MC3T3-E1 cells, suggesting a synergistic effect of these components. Besides, target prediction and experimental validation confirmed the binding affinity of corylin and icaritin for estrogen receptor α and β, the inhibitory activity of isobavachin and isobavachalcone on glycogen synthase kinase-3β, and the inhibitory activity of isobavachalcone on cathepsin K. The cell-based assay further confirmed the result of the biochemical assay. A network that integrated absorbed components of XLGB-targets-perturbation genes-pathways against osteoporosis was established. Conclusion: Our current study provides a new systemic strategy for discovering active ingredient groups of TCM formulae and understanding their underlying mechanisms.
- Mechanism of action
- Standardized drug-containing plasma
- Traditional Chinese medicine formula
- Transcriptome sequencing
- Xian-Ling-Gu-Bao capsule
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Drug Discovery