Metabolite Profiling of Four Major Flavonoids of Herba Epimedii in Zebrafish

Molecules. 2012 Jan 4;17(1):420-32. doi: 10.3390/molecules17010420.


The zebrafish model organism was applied first in a metabolic study of icariin, baohuoside I, epimedin A and epimedin C, which are flavonoids in Herba Epimedii. Metabolites of these compounds in zebrafish after exposure for 24 h were identified by HPLC-ESI-MS, whereby the separation was performed with a Zorbax C-18 column using a gradient elution of 0.05% formic acid acetonitrile-0.05% formic acid water. The quasi-molecular ions of compounds were detected in simultaneous negative and positive ionization modes. Metabolic products of icariin and epimedin C via cleavage of glucose residue instead of rhamnose residues were found, which coincided with the results using regular metabolic analysis methods. In addition, the zebrafish model was used to predict the metabolism of the trace component epimedin A, whose metabolic mechanisms haven't been clearly elucidated with the current metabolism model. The metabolic pathway of epimedin A in zebrafish was similar to those of its homologue icariin and epimedin C. Our study demonstrated that the zebrafish model can successfully imitate the current models in elucidating metabolic pathways of model flavonoids, which has advantages of lower cost, far less amount of compound needed, easy set up and high performance. This novel model can also be applied in quickly predicting the metabolism of Chinese herb components, especially trace compounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotransformation
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / chemistry
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / isolation & purification
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacokinetics*
  • Epimedium / chemistry*
  • Female
  • Flavonoids / chemistry
  • Flavonoids / isolation & purification
  • Flavonoids / pharmacokinetics*
  • Male
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization
  • Zebrafish / metabolism*


  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Flavonoids