Pilose antler (Cervus elaphus Linnaeus) polysaccharide and polypeptide extract inhibits bone resorption in high turnover type osteoporosis by stimulating the MAKP and MMP-9 signaling pathways

J Ethnopharmacol. 2023 Mar 25:304:116052. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2022.116052. Epub 2022 Dec 16.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Pilose antler is a traditional Chinese medicine used to improve kidney function, strengthen tendons and bones, and prolong life, among other uses. It is widely employed in the treatment of osteoporosis. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the treatment of high turnover osteoporosis are not fully understood.

Aim of the study: The present study aimed to investigate the molecular mechanism underlying pilose antler polysaccharide and polypeptide extracts in inhibiting bone resorption in high turnover osteoporosis, and compare the effects of the two components alone and in combination to explore whether they could produce synergistic enhancement effects.

Materials and methods: The quantitative and qualitative characteristics of pilose antler polysaccharide and polypeptide extracts were detected by UV-visible spectrophotometry and high-performance liquid chromatography. A rat model of retinoic acid-induced osteoporosis was used to evaluate the inhibitory effect of the extracts on bone resorption. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was used to detect the activity of factors related to high turnover type osteoporosis in rat serum. Western blotting was used to detect the expression of proteins related to the MAKP and MMP-9 signaling pathways in rat femurs. Fluorescence quantitative PCR was used to detect the transcription levels of genes related to the MAKP and MMP-9 signaling pathways in rat femur tissues. Hematoxylin and eosin staining were used to observe the osteoprotective effects of pilose antler polysaccharides and polypeptides.

Results: The yield of pilose antler polysaccharides was 8.3%, and was mainly composed of mannose, glucosamine hydrochloride, glucuronic acid, Galacturonic acid, Galactose hydrochloride, glucose, and galactose. The yield of the polypeptides was 26.2%, and eighty percent of the molecular weight of the antler polypeptides was 1.6 kDa-7kD, among which, the molecular weight of 7kD peptide accounted for 52% of the total. Both polysaccharides and peptides could reduce the activities of TRACP, OCN, ERK1, JNK, and MMP-9 in rat serum and reduce both the protein expression and gene transcription levels of ERK1, JNK, and MMP-9 in rat femur tissue with significant differences compared with the model group. Both extracts exerted significant protective effects on rat femur tissue. The effect of pilose antler polypeptides alone was better than that of polysaccharides either alone or in combination.

Conclusions: Pilose antler polysaccharides, polypeptides, and their mixtures could inhibit the occurrence of bone resorption of high turnover osteoporosis by stimulating the MAKP and MMP-9 signaling pathways to reduce the expression of the ERK1, JNK, and MMP-9 genes and proteins, and could help alleviate bone loss caused by retinoic acid. Pilose antler polypeptides had a stronger effect on inhibiting bone resorption. The combination of the two components did not show synergistic enhancement effect, and the polysaccharide tended to moderate the inhibitory enhancement effect of the polypeptide.

Keywords: Bone resorption; Cervi cornu pantotrichum; Osteoporosis; Pilose antler; Polypeptide; Polysaccharide.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Resorption* / drug therapy
  • Deer*
  • Galactose
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / genetics
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / metabolism
  • Osteoporosis* / metabolism
  • Peptides / pharmacology
  • Peptides / therapeutic use
  • Polysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Polysaccharides / therapeutic use
  • Proteins / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tretinoin / pharmacology
  • Tretinoin / therapeutic use


  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9
  • Galactose
  • Peptides
  • Proteins
  • Polysaccharides
  • Tretinoin