Xie Zhuo Tiao Zhi formula modulates intestinal microbiota and liver purine metabolism to suppress hepatic steatosis and pyroptosis in NAFLD therapy

Jiannan Qiu, Lin Chen, Ling Zhang, Fangying Xu, Congcong Zhang, Guilin Ren, Kaixin Chang, Guonong He, Zhongyan Du, Yifei Le, Zhiling Yu, Songtao Li, Qingsheng Liu*, Xiaobing Dou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Current evidence indicates a rising global prevalence of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), which is closely associated to conditions such as obesity, dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. The relationship between the gut microbiome and metabolites in NAFLD is gaining attention understanding the pathogenesis and progression of dysregulated lipid metabolism and inflammation. The Xie Zhuo Tiao Zhi (XZTZ) decoction has been employed in clinical practice for alleviating hyperlipidemia and symptoms related to metabolic disorders. However, the pharmacological mechanisms underlying the effects of XZTZ remain to be elucidated. 

Purpose: The objective of this study was to examine the pharmacological mechanisms underlying the hypolipidemic and anti-inflammatory effects of XZTZ decoction in a mouse model of NAFLD, as well as the effects of supplementing exogenous metabolites on PO induced cell damage and lipid accumulation in cultured hepatocytes. 

Methods: A high-fat diet (HFD) mouse model was established to examine the effects of XZTZ through oral gavage. The general condition of mice and the protective effect of XZTZ on liver injury were evaluated using histological and biochemical methods. Hematoxylin and eosin staining (H&E) staining and oil red O staining were performed to assess inflammatory and lipid accumulation detection, and cytokine levels were quantitatively analyzed. Additionally, the study included full-length 16S rRNA sequencing, liver transcriptome analysis, and non-targeted metabolomics analysis to investigate the relationship among intestinal microbiome, liver metabolic function, and XZTZ decoction. 

Results: XZTZ had a significant impact on the microbial community structure in NAFLD mice. Notably, the abundance of Ileibacterium valens, which was significantly enriched by XZTZ, exhibited a negative correlation with liver injury biomarkers such as, alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST) activity. Moreover, treatment with XZTZ led to a significant enrichment of the purine metabolism pathway in liver tissue metabolites, with inosine, a purine metabolite, showing a significant positive correlation with the abundance of I. valens. XZTZ and inosine also significantly enhanced fatty acid β-oxidation, which led to a reduction in the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and the inhibition of liver pyroptosis. These effects contributed to the mitigation of liver injury and hepatocyte damage, both in vivo and vitro. Furthermore, the utilization of HPLC fingerprints and UPLC-Q-TOF-MS elucidated the principal constituents within the XZTZ decoction, including naringin, neohesperidin, atractylenolide III, 23-o-Acetylalisol B, pachymic acid, and ursolic acid which are likely responsible for its therapeutic efficacy. Further investigations are imperative to fully uncover and validate the pharmacodynamic mechanisms underlying these observations. Conclusion: The administration of XZTZ decoction demonstrates a protective effect on the livers of NAFLD mice by inhibiting lipid accumulation and reducing hepatocyte inflammatory damage. This protective effect is mediated by the upregulation of I.valens abundance in the intestine, highlighting the importance of the gut-liver axis. Furthermore, the presesnce of inosine, adenosine, and their derivatives are important in promoting the protective effects of XZTZ. Furthermore, the in vitro approaching, we provide hitherto undocumented evidence indicating that the inosine significantly improves lipid accumulation, inflammatory damage, and pyroptosis in AML12 cells incubated with free fatty acids.

Original languageEnglish
Article number155111
Early online dateSept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Complementary and alternative medicine

User-Defined Keywords

  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Intestinal microbiota
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Purine metabolism
  • Pyroptosis
  • Xie Zhuo Tiao Zhi decoction


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