Although Qing-Fei-Pai-Du decoction (QFPDD) is extensively used clinically to treat COVID-19 patients, the mechanism by which it modulates the immunological and metabolic functions of liver tissue remains unknown.
The purpose of this study is to investigate the mechanism of action of QFPDD in the treatment of mice with coronavirus-induced pneumonia by combining integrated hepatic single-cell RNA sequencing and untargeted metabolomics.
We developed a human coronavirus pneumonia model in BALB/c mice by infecting them with human coronavirus HCoV-229E with stimulating them with cold-damp environment. We initially assessed the status of inflammation and immunity in model mice treated with or without QFPDD by detecting peripheral blood lymphocytes and inflammatory cytokines. Then, single-cell RNA sequencing and untargeted metabolomics were performed on mouse liver tissue.
HCoV-229E infection in combination with exposure to a cold-damp environment significantly decreased the percentage of peripheral blood lymphocytes (CD4 and CD8 T cells, B cells) in mice, which was enhanced by QFPDD therapy. Meanwhile, the levels of inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6, TNF-α, and IFN-γ were significantly increased in mouse models but significantly decreased by QFPDD treatment. Single-cell RNA sequencing analysis showed that QFPDD could attenuate disease-associated alterations in gene expression, core transcriptional regulatory networks, and cell-type composition. Computational predictions indicated that QFPDD rectified the observed aberrant patterns of cell-cell communication. Additionally, the metabolic profiles of liver tissue in the Model group were distinct from mice in the Control group, and QFPDD significantly regulated hepatic purine metabolism.
To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to integrate hepatic single-cell RNA sequencing and untargeted metabolomics into a TCM formula and these valuable findings indicate that QFPDD can improve immune function and reduce liver injury and inflammation.

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