Combining network pharmacology, RNA-seq, and metabolomics strategies to reveal the mechanism of Cimicifugae Rhizoma - Smilax glabra Roxb herb pair for the treatment of psoriasis

Phytomedicine. 2022 Oct;105:154384. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2022.154384. Epub 2022 Aug 5.

Abstract

Background: Psoriasis is a prevalent chronic inflammatory skin condition marked by immune cell infiltration and keratinocyte abnormal proliferation. Cimicifugae Rhizoma - Smilax glabra Roxb (CS) herb pair, the main component of Shengma Detoxification Decoction, has been proven effective for the treatment of psoriasis. However, the mechanism is yet to be deciphered.

Purpose: To explore the mechanism of CS for the treatment of psoriasis.

Methods: The imiquimod-induced psoriasis-like lesion mouse model was used to identify the targets and the molecular mechanisms of CS. Network pharmacology combined with RNA-seq strategy was employed to predict the targets and mechanisms of CS for psoriasis. Metabolomics approaches were used to demonstrate the complexity of CS for the treatment of psoriasis. Finally, a compound-response-enzyme-gene network was constructed based on the multi-omics results to elucidate potential connections.

Results: The CS herb pair could significantly improve psoriatic lesions and reduce the inflammatory cell infiltration and proliferation of keratinocytes in skin lesions. Network pharmacology predicted that TNF, JNK, IL-6, and IL-1β could be potential targets. RNA-seq data revealed that CS could significantly regulate genes and signaling pathways associated with Th17 responses, such as IL-36, IL-1β, CCl2, CXCL16, keratin 14, keratin 5, and antimicrobial peptides S100A8 and S100A9 well as MAPK, mTOR, and other signaling pathways. Further experimental data validated that CS treatment remarkably reduced the expression of inflammatory cytokines and factors, such as CCL2, CCL7, IL1F6, IL-17, IL-23, IL-1β, TNF-α, and IL-6, and inhibited the phosphorylation of p38 and ERK1/2. This indicated that CS exerts its therapeutic effect by inhibiting the MAPK signaling pathways. In addition, metabolomic analyses demonstrated that CS treatment improved seven metabolic pathways, these included phenylalanine, tyrosine, pyruvate metabolism, carnitine metabolism, etc. Four key metabolites (L-Arginine, L-Phenylalanine, L-Carnitine, O-Acetylcarnitine) and nine differential genes (CMA1, PCBD2, TPSAB1, TPSB2, etc.) were identified that affected amino acid metabolism, carnitine metabolism, and other pathways contributing to the infiltration of Th17 cells in psoriatic lesions.

Conclusion: CS could alleviate IMQ-induced psoriasis-like dermatitis by reducing the expression of cytokines and chemokines mediated by the MAPK pathway, and improved amino acid and carnitine metabolism in vivo. Our study is the first to demonstrate the complex mechanism of CS for the treatment of psoriasis and provides a new paradigm to elucidate the pharmacological effects of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) drugs for psoriasis from multiple perspectives.

Keywords: Cimicifugae Rhizoma; Metabolomics; Network pharmacology; Psoriasis; RNA-seq; Smilax glabra Roxb.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids
  • Animals
  • Carnitine
  • Cimicifuga
  • Cytokines
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Imiquimod
  • Interleukin-6
  • Keratinocytes
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Network Pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts
  • Psoriasis*
  • RNA-Seq
  • Skin
  • Smilax*

Substances

  • Amino Acids
  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-6
  • Plant Extracts
  • black cohosh root extract
  • Imiquimod
  • Carnitine