Traditional Medicine Pien Tze Huang Suppresses Colorectal Tumorigenesis Through Restoring Gut Microbiota and Metabolites

Gastroenterology. 2023 Dec;165(6):1404-1419. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2023.08.052. Epub 2023 Sep 12.


Background & aims: Pien Tze Huang (PZH) is a well-established traditional medicine with beneficial effects against inflammation and cancer. We aimed to explore the chemopreventive effect of PZH in colorectal cancer (CRC) through modulating gut microbiota.

Methods: CRC mouse models were established by azoxymethane plus dextran sulfate sodium treatment or in Apcmin/+ mice treated with or without PZH (270 mg/kg and 540 mg/kg). Gut barrier function was determined by means of intestinal permeability assays and transmission electron microscopy. Fecal microbiota and metabolites were analyzed by means of metagenomic sequencing and liquid chromatography mass spectrometry, respectively. Germ-free mice or antibiotic-treated mice were used as models of microbiota depletion.

Results: PZH inhibited colorectal tumorigenesis in azoxymethane plus dextran sulfate sodium-treated mice and in Apcmin/+ mice in a dose-dependent manner. PZH treatment altered the gut microbiota profile, with an increased abundance of probiotics Pseudobutyrivibrio xylanivorans and Eubacterium limosum, while pathogenic bacteria Aeromonas veronii, Campylobacter jejuni, Collinsella aerofaciens, and Peptoniphilus harei were depleted. In addition, PZH increased beneficial metabolites taurine and hypotaurine, bile acids, and unsaturated fatty acids, and significantly restored gut barrier function. Transcriptomic profiling revealed that PZH inhibited PI3K-Akt, interleukin-17, tumor necrosis factor, and cytokine-chemokine signaling. Notably, the chemopreventive effect of PZH involved both microbiota-dependent and -independent mechanisms. Fecal microbiota transplantation from PZH-treated mice to germ-free mice partly recapitulated the chemopreventive effects of PZH. PZH components ginsenoside-F2 and ginsenoside-Re demonstrated inhibitory effects on CRC cells and primary organoids, and PZH also inhibited tumorigenesis in azoxymethane plus dextran sulfate sodium-treated germ-free mice.

Conclusions: PZH manipulated gut microbiota and metabolites toward a more favorable profile, improved gut barrier function, and suppressed oncogenic and pro-inflammatory pathways, thereby suppressing colorectal carcinogenesis.

Keywords: Colorectal Cancer; Metabolites; Microbiota; Pien Tze Huang.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Azoxymethane / toxicity
  • Carcinogenesis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / chemically induced
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / prevention & control
  • Dextran Sulfate / toxicity
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Mice
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • pien tze huang
  • Dextran Sulfate
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Azoxymethane