Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences (Jan 2023)

Study on the mechanism of cholic acid derivatives in traditional Chinese medicine based on the regulation of gene expression

  • Yongchun Huang,
  • Jie Zhang,
  • Pengxiang Zhao,
  • Yufeng Ma,
  • Qiangqiang Jia,
  • Shoude Zhang

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 10, no. 1
pp. 35 – 41


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Objective: To investigate the pharmacological action and mechanism of cholic acid derivatives in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) based on the regulation of gene expression. Methods: Genome-wide gene expression profiles of Michigan Cancer Foundation-7 (MCF-7) cells treated with or without 4 cholic acid derivatives were detected by gene chip technology. Similarities in upregulated and downregulated genes were analyzed using the Connectivity Map (CMap) database. The affinity between cholic acid derivatives and the potential target was confirmed by molecular docking. The cholic acid derivative-regulated pathway enrichment analysis was performed by the STRING database, and the potential pathway was confirmed by in vitro experiments on MD Anderson-Metastatic Breast-231 (MDA-MB-231) cells. Results: Compared with the reference genome in the CMap database, the gene expression profiles of cholic acid derivatives were similar to those of antipsychotic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-infective drugs. Among them, 4 derivatives were associated with antianxiety drugs, and molecular docking results showed that these compounds may act by binding to the ligand-binding site of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. Moreover, the cytoskeletal pathway is one of the pathways enriched in the derivatives. Of them, ursodeoxycholic acid showed significant inhibitory activity on the cytoskeleton formation of MDA-MB-231 cells. Conclusion: The gene expression detection method, combined with CMap and pathway enrichment analysis, could be used to study the mechanism of the active ingredients of TCM. In addition, our research showed that cholic acid derivatives have a potential affinity for membrane receptors, where they can exert anxiolytic activity by modulating opioid receptor, GABA receptor, and dopamine receptor. Moreover, ursodeoxycholic and chenodeoxycholic acid inhibit cytoskeleton formation, probably by acting on membrane proteins to activate the corresponding cytoskeletal pathways.