Salvia-Nelumbinis naturalis (SNN) formula is a traditional Chinese medicine prescription, and has been confirmed to be effective in treating non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), but the underlying mechanisms are still unknown. Here we showed that 4-week SNN administration alleviated methionine-choline-deficiency (MCD) diet-induced hepatic steatosis and inflammation as well as serum levels of alanine transaminase (ALT) increase in C57BL/6 mice. Fecal 16S rDNA sequencing indicated that SNN altered the structure of gut microbiota and partially reversed the gut dysbiosis. Simultaneously, we analyzed the fecal BA profile using liquid chromatography coupled with triple quadrupole mass spectrometry (UPLC-TQMS) -based metabolomics, and found that SNN modulated fecal BA profile, predominantly increased the microbiomes related BA species (e.g. nordeoxycholic acid) which in turn, activated farnesoid X receptor (FXR)-fibroblast growth factor 15 (FGF15) signaling pathway in the colon but not the ileum. The activation of intestinal FXR-FGF15 signaling was accompanied by increase of liver protein kinase B (PKB/Akt) phosphorylation, and decrease of p-65 subunit of NF-κB phosphorylation, resulting in less liver CD68 positive macrophages, and inflammatory cytokine IL-1β and TNF-α expression. Our results established the link between SNN treatment, gut microbiota, BA profile and NASH, which might shed light into the mechanisms behind the beneficial effects of SNN on NASH, thus provide evidence for the clinical application of SNN.
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