Daphnes Cortex (Daphne Giraldii Nitsche, DGN) is a popular traditional Chinese herbal medicine for traumatic injuries and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in the Shaanxi and Gansu provinces of China. Due to skin irritation caused by raw DGN (RDGN), licorice-processed DGN products are usually used in clinical practice. However, the efficacy and mechanisms of action between DGN and its licorice-processed DGN products in treating RA have not been compared.
This study compared the efficacy and elucidated the mechanisms in vitro and in vivo between RDGN and its licorice-processed DGN products in treating RA.
A collagen-induced RA rat model was established, and treated with different doses of RDGN and its licorice-processed DGN products for 4 weeks to explore the therapeutic effects. The anti-inflammatory effects were assessed in RAW 264.7 macrophages stimulated by lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Analyses of the differential quality markers (DQMs) between DGN and its licorice-processed DGN products using ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry, and non-targeted metabolomics analyses of rat synovial tissues were used to systematically explore correlations between DGN processing and its efficacy.
Licorice-processed DGN products significantly ameliorated RA symptoms in CIA rats. Licorice-processed DGN products also regulated inflammatory cytokines, matrix metalloproteinases, and vascular endothelial growth factor in the serum and cell supernatants. Licorice-processed DGN products significantly inhibited Toll-like receptor 4/nuclear factor kappa B/NOD-like receptor family, pyrin domain containing 3 (TLR4/NF-κB/NLRP3) signaling in CIA rats and LPS-induced RAW264.7 cells. The DQMs between RDGN and its licorice-processed DGN products were identified, most of which were amino acids or energy-related metabolites present in licorice-processed DGN products. Correlations between DQMs with differential metabolites and differential metabolic pathways were established.
Licorice-processed DGN products displayed better anti-inflammatory effects via the TLR4/NF-κB/NLRP3 signaling pathway on CIA rats and LPS-induced RAW264.7 cells, and regulation of the metabolic profile in treating RA.

Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier B.V.
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