Lei Wang, Yin Zhi, Ying Ye, Miao Zhang, Xing Ma, Hongyun Tie, Xiaokun Ma, Ni Zheng, Wei Xia, Yanan Song
Background. Jiangzhi Decoction (JZD), a traditional herb mixture, has shown significant clinical efficacy against nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). However, its multicomponent and multitarget characteristics bring difficulty in deciphering its pharmacological mechanisms. Our study is aimed at identifying the core molecular mechanisms of JZD against NAFLD. Methods. The active ingredients were searched from Traditional Chinese Medicine Systems Pharmacology (TCMSP) database and Traditional Chinese Medicine Integrated Database (TCMID). The targets of those ingredients were identified using ChemMapper database based on 3D structure similarity. NAFLD-related genes were searched from DisGeNET database and Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) database. Then, we performed protein-protein interaction (PPI) analysis, functional enrichment analysis, and constructed pathway networks of "herbs-active ingredients-candidate targets" and identified the core molecular mechanisms and key active ingredients in the network. Also, molecular docking was carried out to predict the ligands of candidate targets using SwissDock. Finally, the human hepatic L02 cell line was used to establish the NAFLD model in vitro. The effect and key molecules were validated by Oil Red O staining, biochemical assays, and quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR). Results. We found 147 active ingredients in JZD, 1285 targets of active ingredients, 401 NAFLD-related genes, and 59 overlapped candidate targets of JZD against NAFLD. 22 core targets were obtained by PPI analysis. Finally, nuclear receptor transcription and lipid metabolism regulation were found as the core molecular mechanisms of JZD against NAFLD by functional enrichment analysis. The candidate targets PPARα and LXRα were both docked with hyperin as the most favorable interaction, and HNF4α was docked with linolenic acid ethyl ester. According to in vitro experiments, it was found that JZD had an inhibitory effect on lipid accumulation and regulatory effects on cholesterol and triglycerides. Compared with OA group, the mRNA expression levels of PPARα and HNF4α were significantly upregulated in JZD group (), and LXRα was significantly downregulated ().Conclusion. JZD might alleviate hepatocyte steatosis by regulating some key molecules related to nuclear receptor transcription and lipid metabolism, such as PPARα, LXRα, and HNF4α. Our study will provide the scientific evidences of the clinical efficacy of JZD against NAFLD.