Si-Miao-Yong-An decoction (SMYAD) is a renowned traditional Chinese medicinal formula. SMYAD was originally recorded in the “Shi Shi Mi Lu”, which was edited by medical scientist Chen Shi’duo during the Qing Dynasty. SMYAD has been traditionally used to treat thromboangiitis obliterans. At present, it is mainly used in clinical applications and research of cardiovascular diseases.
To explore the effects of SMYAD on the pathological changes of atherosclerosis (AS) and the differentiation of monocytes, macrophages, and regulatory T (Treg) cells in apolipoprotein E knockout (ApoE-/-) mice.
Eight C57BL/6J mice, which were fed with normal diet for 16 weeks, were used as control group. Forty ApoE-/- mice were randomly divided into model group, atorvastatin group, SMYAD low-dose (SMYAD-LD) group, SMYAD medium-dose (SMYAD-MD) group, and SMYAD high-dose (SMYAD-HD) group. ApoE-/- mice were fed with western diet (WD) for 8 weeks, and the drugs were continuously administered for 8 weeks. The levels of serum total cholesterol (TC), triglyceride (TG), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) were measured by the esterase method. Morphological changes of the aortic sinus in mice were observed by hematoxylin-eosin (HE) staining, the lipid infiltration of the aorta and aortic sinus were observed by oil red O staining, and the spleen index was calculated. The proportion of Ly6C and Ly6C monocyte subsets, macrophages, and their M1 phenotype, as well as Treg cells in spleen were measured by flow cytometry. The expressions of cluster of differentiation 36 (CD36), scavenger receptor A1 (SRA1), lectin-like oxidized low-density lipoprotein receptor-1 (LOX-1), F4/80, and fork head frame protein 3 (FOXP3) in aortic sinus were assessed by immunohistochemical staining. The serum levels of oxidized low density lipoprotein (ox-LDL), interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-18, transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β), and IL-10 were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA).
Compared with the model group, the level of serum TC and LDL-C decreased in the SMYAD group, the pathological changes of aortic sinus decreased, and lipid infiltration of aorta and aortic sinus also decreased. These decreases were accompanied by a significant downregulation of CD36, SRA1, and LOX-1. Furthermore, the proportions of Ly6C pro-inflammatory monocyte subsets, macrophages, and their M1 phenotypes in spleen decreased significantly, while the proportion of Treg cells increased. In addition, while the expression of F4/80 decreased, the expression of FOXP3 increased in the aorta sinus. The levels of serum pro-inflammatory factors IL-1β and IL-18 decreased.
SMYAD can improve the pathological changes associated with AS and can inhibit lipid deposition in ApoE-/- mice induced by WD diet. The likely mechanism is the inhibition of the differentiation and recruitment of monocytes and macrophages, the promotion of the differentiation and recruitment of Treg cells, as well as the reduction of the secretion of pro-inflammatory factors.

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