Isoflavones enhance pharmacokinetic exposure of active lovastatin acid via the upregulation of carboxylesterase in high-fat diet mice after oral administration of Xuezhikang capsules

Authors: Dong Feng1,2,3, Chun Ge1, Zhao-yi Tan1, Jian-guo Sun1, Yuan Xie1, Lan Yao1, Cai-xia Yan1, Ji-ye Aa1, Guang-ji Wang1
1 Key Laboratory of Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics, State Key Laboratory of Natural Medicines, China Pharmaceutical University, Nanjing 210009, China
2 Department of Pharmacy, Nanjing First Hospital, Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing 210029, China
3 School of Basic Medicine & Clinical Pharmacy, China Pharmaceutical University, Nanjing 210009, China
Correspondence to: Ji-ye Aa:, Guang-ji Wang:,
DOI: 10.1038/s41401-018-0039-1
Received: 16 December 2017
Accepted: 3 May 2018
Advance online: 19 June 2018


Xuezhikang capsule (XZK) is a traditional Chinese medicine that contains lovastatin (Lv) for hyperlipidemia treatment, although it has fewer side effects than Lv. However, the pharmacokinetic mechanisms contributing to its distinct efficacy and low side effects are unclear. Mice were fed a high-fat diet (HFD) for 6 weeks to induce hyperlipidemia. We first conducted the pharmacokinetic studies in HFD mice following oral administration of Lv (10 mg/kg, i.g.) and found that HFD remarkably decreased the active form of Lv (the lovastatin acid, LvA) exposure in the circulation system, especially in the targeting organ liver, with a declined conversion from Lv to LvA, whereas the Lv (responsible for myotoxicity) exposure in muscle markedly increased. Then we compared the pharmacokinetic profiles of Lv in HFD mice after the oral administration of XZK (1200 mg/kg, i.g.) or an equivalent dose of Lv (10 mg/kg, i.g.). A higher exposure of LvA and lower exposure of Lv were observed after XZK administration, suggesting a pharmacokinetic interaction of some ingredients in XZK. Further studies revealed that HFD promoted the inflammation and inhibited carboxylesterase (CES) activities in the intestine and the liver, thus contributing to the lower transformation of Lv into LvA. In contrast, XZK inhibited the inflammation and upregulated CES in the intestine and the liver. Finally, we evaluated the effects of monacolins and phytosterols, the fractional extracts of isoflavones, on inflammatory LS174T or HepG2 cells, which showed that isoflavones inhibited inflammation, upregulated CES, and markedly enhanced the conversion of Lv into LvA. For the first time, we provide evidence that isoflavones and Lv in XZK act in concert to enhance the efficacy and reduce the side effects of Lv.
Keywords: Xuezhikang capsules; lovastatin; lovastatin acid; hyperlipidemia; inflammation; carboxylesterase; isoflavones; pharmacokinetics

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