Ethanol extract of Zhongtian hawthorn lowers serum cholesterol in mice by inhibiting transcription of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase via nuclear factor-kappa B signal pathway

Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2016 Mar;241(6):667-74. doi: 10.1177/1535370215627032. Epub 2016 Jan 28.


Hawthorn is a berry-like fruit from the species of Crataegus. In China, it has another more famous name, Shan-Zha, which has been used to improve digestion as a traditional Chinese medicine or food for thousands of years. Moreover, during the last decades, hawthorn has received more attention because of its potential to treat cardiovascular diseases. However, currently, only fruits of C. pinnatifida and C. pinnatifida var. major are included as Shan-Zha in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia. In this study, our results showed that the ethanol extract of Zhongtian hawthorn, a novel grafted cultivar of C. cuneata (wild Shan-Zha), could markedly reduce body weight and levels of serum total cholesterol, triglyceride, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and liver cholesterol of hyperlipidemia mice. It could suppress the stimulation effect of high-fat diet on the transcription of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase (HMGCR) and p65, and counteract the downregulation of CYP7A1 and LDLR. In addition, the results of luciferase reporter assay and Western blot showed that the transcriptional activity of HMGCR promoter was inhibited by Zhongtian hawthorn ethanol extract in a dose-dependent manner, while overexpression of p65 could reverse this transcriptional repression effect. These results suggested that Zhongtian hawthorn could provide health benefits by counteracting the high-fat diet-induced hypercholesteolemic and hyperlipidemic effects in vivo, and the mechanism underlying this event was mainly dependent on the suppressive effect of Zhongtian hawthorn ethanol extract on the transcription of HMGCR via nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) signal pathway. Therefore, this novel cultivar of hawthorn cultivar which has much bigger fruits, early bearing, high yield, cold resistance, and drought resistance, might be considered as a good alternative to Shan-Zha and has great value in the food and medicine industry. In addition, to our best knowledge, this is also the first report that the extract of Crataegus could suppress the transcription of HMGCR via NF-κB signal pathway.

Keywords: 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase; Zhongtian hawthorn; hypocholesteolemic; hypolipidemic; nuclear factor-kappa B; transcriptional regulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / isolation & purification
  • Cholesterol / blood*
  • Crataegus / chemistry*
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl CoA Reductases / biosynthesis*
  • Hypercholesterolemia / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Mice
  • NF-kappa B / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage*
  • Plant Extracts / isolation & purification
  • Serum / chemistry
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects*


  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • NF-kappa B
  • Plant Extracts
  • Cholesterol
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl CoA Reductases