Improved endothelial dysfunction by Cynanchum wilfordii in apolipoprotein E(-/-) mice fed a high fat/cholesterol diet

J Med Food. 2012 Feb;15(2):169-79. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2010.1222. Epub 2011 Nov 14.


Cynanchum wilfordii is used in traditional Chinese medicine with almost all parts of this plant considered beneficial for various vascular diseases. This study was performed to evaluate the effect of an ethanol extract of C. wilfordii (ECW) on vascular dysfunction in apolipoprotein E (apoE)(-/-) mice fed with high fat/cholesterol diets (HFCDs). The apoE(-/-) mice were fed HFCD consisting of 7.5% cocoa butter and 1.25% cholesterol, with or without 100 or 200 mg/day/kg ECW. Chronic ECW treatment significantly lessened the level of low-density lipoprotein (P<.05) and elevated that of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (P<.01). Chronic ECW treatment normalized the HFCD-induced increase in systolic blood pressure, maintained smooth and soft intimal endothelial layers, and decreased intima-media thickness in aortic sections of HFCD-fed apoE(-/-) mice. ECW significantly restored the diet-induced decrease in vasorelaxation response to acetylcholine; however, the response to sodium nitroprusside did not change. ECW clearly restored the HFCD-induced reduction in endothelial nitric oxide synthase expression levels in aortic tissue, leading to decreased vascular inflammation through an inhibition of cellular adhesion molecules such as E-selectin, vascular cell adhesion molecule-1, and intracellular adhesion molecule-1 as well as endothelin-1 (ET-1) expression. In conclusion, ECW ameliorates endothelial dysfunction via improvement of the nitric oxide/cyclic GMP signaling pathway in a diet/genetic model of hyperlipidemia. ECW also substantially inhibited the development of atherosclerosis, possibly by inhibiting ET-1, cell adhesion molecules, and lesion formation, suggesting a vascular protective role for this herb in the treatment and prevention of atherosclerotic vascular disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apolipoproteins E / deficiency
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics*
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Cynanchum / chemistry*
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • E-Selectin / metabolism
  • Endothelial Cells / drug effects*
  • Endothelial Cells / physiology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipidemias / drug therapy*
  • Hyperlipidemias / metabolism
  • Hyperlipidemias / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage*
  • Vascular Cell Adhesion Molecule-1 / metabolism
  • Vasodilation / drug effects


  • Apolipoproteins E
  • E-Selectin
  • Plant Extracts
  • Vascular Cell Adhesion Molecule-1
  • Cholesterol