Wenyang Huazhuo Tongluo formula inhibits fibrosis via suppressing Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway in a Bleomycin-induced systemic sclerosis mouse model

Qian Wang, Wenhua Zang, Li Han, Lei Yang, Songshan Ye, Jingfeng Ouyang, Chaoyun Zhang, Yuefeng Bi, Cuiyue Zhang, Hua Bian
Chinese Medicine 2018, 13: 17

Background: Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is an autoimmune disease characterized by fibrosis of the skin and internal organs. So far, no Western medicine treatment can completely inhibit or reverse the progress of SSc, while at the same time, our previous series of studies have shown that the treatment of SSc by the Wenyang Huazhuo Tongluo formula (WYHZTL), a Chinese herbal decoction, shows a delightful prospect. The aim of this study is to further investigate the mechanism of anti-fibrosis of WYHZTL formula in SSc mouse model.

Methods: The Bleomycin-induced SSc mouse model was treated with saline (BLM), high-dosage of WYHZTL formula (WYHZTL-H), medium-dosage of WYHZTL formula (WYHZTL-M), low-dosage of WYHZTL formula (WYHZTL-L) and XAV-939, a small molecule inhibitor of Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway, by the intragastric administration and intraperitoneal injection, respectively. The mRNA and protein levels of Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway associated genes, fibrosis markers and histopathology were detected by reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction, Western blotting and hematoxylin/eosin-staining. The levels of Wnt1, CTGF and DKK1 protein in serum were detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.

Results: Compared with BLM group, the WYHZTL formula and XAV-939 could significantly inhibit the thickness of the skin tissue of the SSc mouse model. The mRNA expression levels of GSK3β and DKK1 in the WYHZTL formula and XAV-939-treated group were significantly higher than those in the BLM group, while Wnt1, β-catenin, TCF4, cyclin D1, survivin, VEGF, CTGF, FN1, collagen I/III were decreased. Compared with BLM group, the protein expression levels of GSK3β and DKK1 in the WYHZTL formula and XAV-939-treated group were upregulated, while Wnt1, β-catenin, cyclin D1, survivin, CTGF, FN1, collagen I/III were downregulated. WYHZTL formula and XAV-939 could inhibit expression of Wnt1 and CTGF, but promoted DKK1 in serum. Furthermore, WYHZTL-H seemed more effective than WYHZTL-M and/or XAV-939 on regulating Wnt1, β-catenin, TCF4, GSK3β, DKK1, cyclin D1, survivin, VEGF, CTGF, FN1 and collagen I/III.

Conclusion: This present study demonstrates that WYHZTL formula has anti-fibrosis effect in Bleomycin-induced SSc mouse model in a dosage-dependent manner, and the molecular mechanism may be related to the inhibition of Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway.

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