Tripterygium wilfordii tablets (TWT) is widely used to treat autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Celastrol, one main active ingredient in TWT, has been shown to produce a variety of beneficial effects, including anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity, anti-cancer, and immunomodulatory. However, whether TWT could protect against Concanavalin A (Con A)-induced hepatitis remains unclear.
This study aims to investigate the protective effect of TWT against Con A-induced hepatitis and elucidate the underlying mechanism.
Metabolomic analysis, pathological analysis, biochemical analysis, qPCR and Western blot analysis and the Pxr-null mice were used in this study.
The results indicated that TWT and its active ingredient celastrol could protect against Con A-induced acute hepatitis. Plasma metabolomics analysis revealed that metabolic perturbations related to bile acid and fatty acid metabolism induced by Con A were reversed by celastrol. The level of itaconate in the liver was increased by celastrol and speculated as an active endogenous compound mediating the protective effect of celastrol. Administration of 4-octanyl itaconate (4-OI) as a cell-permeable itaconate mimicker was found to attenuate Con A-induced liver injury through activation of the pregnane X receptor (PXR) and enhancement of the transcription factor EB (TFEB)-mediated autophagy.
Celastrol increased itaconate and 4-OI promoted activation of TFEB-mediated lysosomal autophagy to protect against Con A-induced liver injury in a PXR-dependent manner. Our study reported a protective effect of celastrol against Con A-induced AIH via an increased production of itaconate and upregulation of TFEB. The results highlighted that PXR and TFEB-mediated lysosomal autophagic pathway may offer promising therapeutic target for the treatment of autoimmune hepatitis.

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