Dehydrodiconiferyl alcohol, a lignan from Herpetospermum pedunculosum, alleviates cholestasis by activating pathways associated with the farnesoid X receptor

Background: In our previous study, we demonstrated the hepatoprotective effect of Herpetospermum pedunculosum in cholestatic rats. A bioassay-guided study also led to the identification and isolation of a lignan, dihydrodiconiferyl alcohol (DA) from the seeds of H. pedunculosum.

Purpose: To investigate whether DA could alleviate cholestasis and determine the mechanisms underlying such action.

Methods: Male Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats were administered with DA (10, 20 or 40 mg/kg) intragastrically once daily for 7 days prior to treatment with α-naphthylisothiocyanate (ANIT) (60 mg/kg). We then evaluated the levels of a range of serum indicators, determined bile flow, and carried out histopathological analyses. Western blotting was then used to investigate the levels of inflammatory mediators and the Farnesoid X Receptor (FXR), proteins involved in the downstream biosynthesis of bile acids, and a range of transport proteins. Molecular docking was used to simulate the interaction between DA and FXR. Cell viability of human hepatocytes (L-02) cells was determined by MTT. Then, we treated guggulsterone-inhibited L-02 cells, Si-FXR L-02 cells, and FXR-overexpression cells with the FXR agonist GW4064 (6 μM) or DA (25, 50 and 100 μM) for 24 h before detecting gene and protein expression by RT-PCR and western blotting, respectively.

Results: DA significantly attenuated ANIT-induced cholestasis in SD rats by reducing liver function indicators in the serum, increasing bile flow, improving the recovery of histopathological injuries in the liver, and by alleviating pro-inflammatory cytokines in the liver. DA also increased the expression levels of FXR and altered the levels of downstream proteins in the liver tissues, thus indicating that DA might alleviate cholestasis by regulating the FXR. Molecular docking simulations predicted that DA was as an agonist of FXR. In vitro mechanical studies further showed that DA increased the mRNA and protein expression levels of FXR, Small Heterodimer Partner 1/2, Bile Salt Export Pump, Multidrug Resistance-associated Protein 2, and Na+/taurocholate Co-transporting Polypeptide, in both guggulsterone-inhibited and Si-FXR L-02 cells. Moreover, DA enhanced the mRNA and protein expression of FXR, and its downstream genes and proteins, in L-02 cells containing an FXR-overexpression plasmid.

Conclusion: DA may represent an effective agonist for FXR has significant therapeutic potential for the treatment of cholestatic liver injury.

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