Chinese herbal formula Fuzheng Huayu alleviates CCl4-induced liver fibrosis in rats: a transcriptomic and proteomic analysis

Authors: Shu DONG1, Fei-fei CAI1, Qi-long CHEN1, Ya-nan SONG1, Yang SUN1, Bin WEI1, Xiao-yan LI1, Yi-yang HU2, Ping LIU3, Shi-bing SU1
1 Research Center for Traditional Chinese Medicine Complexity System, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 201203, China
2 Institute of Liver Diseases, Shuguang Hospital Affiliated to Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 201203, China
3 Institute of E, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 201203, China
Corresponding to: Ping LIU:, Shi-bing SU:,
DOI: 10.1038/aps.2017.150
Received: 16 March 2017
Accepted: 13 August 2017
Advance online: 2 November 2017


Liver fibrosis is a consequence of chronic liver disease that can progress to liver cirrhosis or even hepatocarcinoma. Fuzheng Huayu (FZHY), a Chinese herbal formula, has been shown to exert anti-fibrotic effects. To better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the anti-fibrotic effects of FZHY, we analyzed transcriptomic and proteomic combination profiles in CCl4-induced liver fibrosis in rats, which were treated with extracted FZHY powder (0.35 g·kg–1·d–1, ig) for 3 weeks. We showed that FZHY administration significantly improved liver function, alleviated hepatic inflammatory and fibrotic changes, and decreased the hydroxyproline content in the livers of CCl4-treated rats. When their liver tissues were examined using microarray and iTRAQ, we found 255 differentially expressed genes (fold change ≥1.5, P<0.05) and 499 differentially expressed proteins (fold change ≥1.2, P<0.05) in the FZHY and model groups. Functional annotation with DAVID (The Database for Annotation, Visualization and Integrated Discovery) showed that 15 enriched gene ontology terms, including drug metabolic process, response to extracellular stimulus, response to vitamins, arachidonic acid metabolic process, response to wounding, and oxidation reduction might be involved in the anti-fibrotic effects of FZHY; whereas KEGG pathway analysis revealed that eight enriched pathways, including arachidonic acid metabolism, retinol metabolism, metabolism of xenobiotics by cytochrome P450, and drug metabolism might also be involved. Moreover, the protein-protein interaction network demonstrated that 10 core genes/proteins overlapped, with Ugt2a3, Cyp2b1 and Cyp3a18 in retinol metabolism pathway overlapped to a higher degree. Compared to the model rats, the livers of FZHY-treated rats had significantly higher mRNA and protein expression levels of Ugt2a3, Cyp2b1 and Cyp3a18. Furthermore, the concentration of retinoic acid was significantly higher in the FZHY-treated rats compared with the model rats. The results suggest that the anti-fibrotic effects of FZHY emerge through multiple targets, multiple functions, and multiple pathways, including FZHY-regulated retinol metabolism, xenobiotic metabolism by cytochrome P450, and drug metabolism through up-regulated Ugt2a3, Cyp2b1, and Cyp3a18. These genes may play important anti-fibrotic roles in FZHY-treated rats.
Keywords: Chinese herbal formula; Fuzheng Huayu; CCl4-induced liver fibrosis; transcriptomics; proteomics