Semen hoveniae extract ameliorates alcohol-induced chronic liver damage in rats via modulation of the abnormalities of gut-liver axis

Phytomedicine. 2019 Jan;52:40-50. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2018.09.209. Epub 2018 Sep 22.


Background: Hovenia dulcis Thunb. is considered as a traditional herbal medicine that has been used in the treatment for ethanol-induced liver disease for centuries. Recently, substantial studies demonstrated that Semen hoveniae extract (SHE) not only suppressed the hepatic steatosis caused by chronic ethanol exposure, but also inhibited lipopolysaccharide-stimulated inflammatory responses. Nevertheless, the underlying molecular mechanisms largely remained elusive.

Aim: To determine the hepatoprotective effects of SHE on ethanol-triggered liver damage and further elucidate its potential mechanisms.

Methods: In the present study, the Sprague-Dawley rats were fed with the Lieber-DeCarli diet containing alcohol or isocaloric maltose dextrin as control diet with or without SHE (300 and 600 mg/kg/d bw) for 8 weeks. The levels of serum biomarkers (ALT, AST and LDH) and LPS were detected by biochemical assay kits and endotoxin detection LAL kit, respectively. The histopathological changes of liver and intestinal tissues were observed by hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining and Transmission electron microscope (TEM). The expressions of CD14, TLR4, MyD88, NF-κB, Iκ-B, P-Iκ-B and TNF-α in liver, and ZO-1 and occludin in intestine were determined by western blot. The faecal microbial composition was determined by16S rRNA Gene Sequencing Analysis.

Results: Biochemical and histopathological analysis revealed that SHE significantly alleviated the lipid deposition and inflammation response in liver induced by ethanol. SHE remarkably inhibited the TLR4 pathway and its downstream inflammatory mediators, and up-regulated the expressions of ZO-1 and occludin in the intestine. The further investigations suggested SHE dramatically reversed ethanol-induced alterations in the intestinal microbial flora and decreased the generation of gut-derived endotoxin.

Conclusion: In summary, SHE probably modulated abnormalities of gut-liver axis and inhibited TLR4-associated inflammatory mediators activation to exert its hepatoprotective properties. These findings suggested that SHE as a traditional therapeutic options which may play an essential role in protecting against the chronic ethanol-triggered liver injury.

Keywords: 16S rRNA gene; Gut microbiota; Gut-liver axis; Liver injury; Semen hoveniae extract; TLR4.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ethanol / adverse effects
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects
  • Intestines / drug effects*
  • Intestines / pathology
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Occludin / metabolism
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Protective Agents / pharmacology
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rhamnaceae / chemistry*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism
  • Zonula Occludens-1 Protein / metabolism


  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • NF-kappa B
  • Occludin
  • Plant Extracts
  • Protective Agents
  • Tjp1 protein, rat
  • Tlr4 protein, rat
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Zonula Occludens-1 Protein
  • Ethanol