A hybrid platform featuring nanomagnetic ligand fishing for discovering COX-2 selective inhibitors from aerial part of Saussurea laniceps Hand.-Mazz

Qilei Chen, Lin Zhu, Ka Man Yip, Yancheng Tang, Yi Liu, Tao Jiang, Jianye Zhang, Zhongzhen Zhao, Tao Yi*, Hubiao Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Saussurea laniceps Hand.-Mazz. (Compositae) is a representative “snow lotus” herb well known in Chinese folk medicine to treat inflammation-related diseases such as arthritis. S. laniceps (SL) shows anti-inflammatory and analgesic potencies and contains various constituents potentially with cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) selective inhibition. The herb is a valuable source of natural alternatives to synthetic COX-2 selective nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, a common medication for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) reported with serious cardiovascular side effects. Aim of the study: Based on an innovative drug screening platform, this study aimed to discover safe, effective COX-2 selective inhibitors from SL. Materials and methods: An enzyme-anchored nanomagnetic fishing assay was developed to separate COX-2 ligands from SL. Cell and animal models of cardiomyocytes, lipopolysaccharide-stimulated macrophages, rat adjuvant-induced arthritis, and anterior cruciate ligament transection-induced OA rats, were adopted to screen the single/combined ligands regarding toxicity and bioactivity levels. Molecular docking was employed to unravel binding mechanisms of the ligands towards COX-1 and COX-2. Results: Four COX-2 selective compounds were separated from SL using optimized COX-2-functionalized magnetic nanoparticles. All the four ligands were proved with evidently lower cardiotoxicity both in vitro and in vivo than celecoxib, a known COX-2 selective inhibitor. Two ligands, scopoletin and syringin, exhibited potent anti-arthritic activities in rat models of RA and OA by alleviating clinical statuses, immune responses, and joint pathological features; their optimum combination ratio was discovered with stronger remedial effects on rat OA than single administrations. The COX-1/2 binding modes of the two phytochemicals contributed to explain their cardiac safety and therapeutic performances. Conclusions: The screened chemicals are promising to be developed as COX-2 selective inhibitors as part of treating RA and OA. The hybrid strategy for discovering therapeutic agents from SL is shown here to be efficient; it should be equally valuable for finding other active chemicals in other natural sources.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113849
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Ethnopharmacology
Early online date21 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery

User-Defined Keywords

  • Arthritis
  • Celecoxib (PubChem CID: 2662)
  • Chlorogenic acid (PubChem CID: 1794427)
  • Cyclooxygenase-2
  • Drug discovery
  • Ligand fishing
  • Magnetic nanoparticles
  • Saussurea laniceps
  • Scopoletin (PubChem CID: 5280460)
  • Syringin (PubChem CID: 5316860)
  • Umbelliferone (PubChem CID: 5281426)


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