The Anti-Liver Fibrosis Effect of Tibetan Medicine (Qiwei Tiexie Capsule) is Related to the Inhibition of NLRP3 Inflammasome Activation in Vivo and in Vitro

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Journal of Ethnopharmacology


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Qiwei Tiexie capsule (QWTX) is an improved form of a classical prescription of Tibetan medicine-Qiwei Tiexie pill. It has been employed in the treatment of a variety of chronic liver disorders, including liver fibrosis. Uncertainty still exists regarding the mechanism of QWTX action in liver fibrosis.

Aim of the study: Confirm the anti-liver fibrosis effect of QWTX and reveal its mechanism from the perspective of NOD-like receptor protein 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome activation.

Materials and methods: In vivo experiment: A rat model of carbon tetrachloride -induced liver fibrosis was constructed. All rats were randomly divided into six groups: a control group, a model group, a group receiving the positive drug (Biejia Ruangan tablet), and three groups receiving QWTX at high, medium, and low doses. The contents of aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), and total bilirubin (TBil) were detected in serum. Hematoxylin and eosin staining and Masson's staining were used to assess the histomorphological alteration of the liver. The levels of glutathione peroxidase, hydroxyproline, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), and interleukin 1 beta (IL-1β) in the liver were determined using the corresponding detection kits. Real-time polymerase chain reaction, immunofluorescence, and western blotting were used to determine the expression levels of NLRP3, adaptor protein (ASC), caspase-1, and alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA). In vitro experiment: Four groups of rat hepatic stellate cell line (HSC-T6) cells were created: the control group, the low-dose QWTX group (0.05 mg/mL), the medium-dose QWTX group (0.1 mg/mL), and the high-dose QWTX group (0.2 mg/mL). Cell viability was assessed using a cell counting kit, and the amounts of collagen type I (Col I) and IL-1β in the cell lysate were measured using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kit. The mRNA and protein expression of NLRP3, ASC, caspase-1, and α-SMA were also estimated.

Results: QWTX had an inhibitory effect on liver fibrosis and a negative effect on HSC activation, while it improved liver histopathological injury and abnormal liver function and increased hydroxyproline content and glutathione peroxidase activity in vivo. QWTX decreased the expression of α-SMA, NLRP3, caspase-1, ASC, and IL-1β both in vitro and in vivo.

Conclusions: Tibetan medicine QWTX had a significant anti-liver fibrosis effect that was related to the inhibition of NLRP3 inflammasome activation in vivo and in vitro.



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Inflammation, Liver fibrosis, NLRP3 inflammasome, Qiwei Tiexie capsule, Tibetan medicine