Tu-San-Qi (Gynura japonica): the culprit behind pyrrolizidine alkaloid-induced liver injury in China

Lin Zhu, Chun Yuan Zhang, Dong Ping Li, Hu Biao Chen, Jiang Ma, Hong Gao, Yang Ye, Ji Yao Wang, Peter P. Fu, Ge Lin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Herbs and dietary supplement-induced liver injury (HILI) is the leading cause of drug-induced liver injury in China. Among different hepatotoxic herbs, the pyrrolizidine alkaloid (PA)-producing herb Gynura japonica contributes significantly to HILI by inducing hepatic sinusoidal obstruction syndrome (HSOS), a liver disorder characterized by hepatomegaly, hyperbilirubinemia, and ascites. In China, G. japonica has been used as one of the plant species for Tu-San-Qi and is often misused with non-PA-producing Tu-San-Qi (Sedum aizoon) or even San-Qi (Panax notoginseng) for self-medication. It has been reported that over 50% of HSOS cases are caused by the intake of PA-producing G. japonica. In this review, we provide comprehensive information to distinguish these Tu-San-Qi-related herbal plant species in terms of plant/medicinal part morphologies, medicinal indications, and chemical profiles. Approximately 2156 Tu-San-Qi-associated HSOS cases reported in China from 1980 to 2019 are systematically reviewed in terms of their clinical manifestation, diagnostic workups, therapeutic interventions, and outcomes. In addition, based on the application of our developed mechanism-based biomarker of PA exposure, our clinical findings on the definitive diagnosis of 58 PA-producing Tu-San-Qi-induced HSOS patients are also elaborated. Therefore, this review article provides the first comprehensive report on 2214 PA-producing Tu-San-Qi (G. japonica)-induced HSOS cases in China, and the information presented will improve public awareness of the significant incidence of PA-producing Tu-San-Qi (G. japonica)-induced HSOS and facilitate future prevention and better clinical management of this severe HILI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1212–1222
Number of pages11
JournalActa Pharmacologica Sinica
Issue number8
Early online date5 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Gynura japonica
  • hepatic sinusoidal obstruction syndrome
  • herb-induced liver injury
  • pyrrolizidine alkaloids
  • Tu-San-Qi


Dive into the research topics of 'Tu-San-Qi (Gynura japonica): the culprit behind pyrrolizidine alkaloid-induced liver injury in China'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this