Tripterygium hypoglaucum (levl.) Hutch (Celastraceae) (THH), as a traditional Chinese medicine, was clinically exploited to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA), yet the underlying mechanism for this effect remains largely unclear.
This study aimed to examine the beneficial effects of THH extract (THHE) against rheumatoid arthritis and its regulating role in differential metabolic pathways and potential targets.
In the present study, the Lewis rat model with rheumatoid arthritis induced by adjuvant was established and administrated THHE for 14 days. Untargeted/targeted metabolomics analysis were used for determining the changes of differential metabolites, and molecular docking method was further developed to verify predicted targets and investigate the therapeutic mechanism of THH extract on RA.
The results showed that THH extract could obviously improve body weight, significantly decrease the joint index and swelling degree of the RA model rats to reduce damage in the joint. Meanwhile, THHE could significantly suppress the releases of IL-1α, IL-1β and MMP3, but also the expression levels of IL-4 and IL-10 and percentage of Treg cells were significantly improved, a result consistent with inhibitory effects on multiplication of macrophages, inflammatory cell infiltration and fibro genesis in the synovial tissues. Furthermore, 516 differential metabolites were identified by serum metabolic profiles analysis, including vitamin, organic acids and derivatives, lipids and lipid-like molecule, hormone, amino acids and derivatives, and other compounds, which targeted 47 metabolic pathways highly correlated with immunosuppression, such as citrate cycle (TCA cycle), sphingolipid metabolism, urea cycle, arachidonic acid metabolism and amino acid metabolism (such as Glutamine-Glutamate metabolism). Targeted metabolomics was used to verify that L-Glutamate and Glutamine changed significantly after THHE administration for 14 days, and many active ingredients of THHE could be successfully docked with glutamate dehydrogenase 2 (GLUD2).
This study indicated that the Glutamine-Glutamate/GABA cycle played essential regulation roles in protective effect of THHE on rat RA following adjuvant-induced damage, and GLUD2 as an attractive target also provides great potential for development of therapy agents for rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune diseases with less unfavorable tolerability profile.

Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier B.V.