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Component identification of modified sanmiao pills by UPLC-Xevo G2-XS QTOF and its anti-gouty arthritis mechanism based on network pharmacology and experimental verification.

ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE: Modified sanmiao pills (MSMP), a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) formula, is consisted of rhizome of Smilax glabra Roxb., Cortexes of Phellodendron chinensis Schneid., rhizome of Atractylodes chinensis (DC.) Koidz., and roots of Cyathula officinalis Kuan. in a ratio of 3:3:2:1. This formula has been broadly applied to treat gouty arthritis (GA) in China.

AIMS OF THE STUDY: To elaborate the pharmacodynamic material basis and pharmacological mechanism of MSMP against GA.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: UPLC-Xevo G2-XS QTOF combined with UNIFI platform was applied to qualitatively assess the chemical compounds of MSMP. Network pharmacology and molecular docking were used to identify the active compounds, core targets and key pathways of MSMP against GA. The GA mice model was established by MSU suspension injecting into ankle joint. The swelling index of ankle joint, expressions of inflammatory cytokines, and histopathological changes in mice ankle joints were determined to validate the therapeutic effect of MSMP against GA. The protein expressions of TLRs/MyD88/NF-κB signaling pathway and NLRP3 inflammasome in vivo was detected by Western blotting.

RESULTS: In total, 34 chemical compounds and 302 potential targets of MSMP were ascertained, of which 28 were overlapping targets pertaining to GA. 143 KEGG enrichment pathway were obtained, of which the NOD-like receptor signaling pathway, Toll-like receptor signaling pathway, and NF-κB signaling pathway were strongly associated with GA. In silico study indicated that the active compounds had excellent binding affinity to core targets. In vivo study confirmed that MSMP observably decreased swelling index and alleviated pathological damage to ankle joints in acute GA mice. Besides, MSMP significantly inhibited the secretion of inflammatory cytokines (IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF-α) induced by MSU, as well as the expression levels of key proteins involved in TLRs/MyD88/NF-κB signaling pathway and NLRP3 inflammasome.

CONCLUSION: MSMP possessed a pronounced therapeutic effect on acute GA. Results from network pharmacology and molecular docking showed that obaculactone, oxyberberine, and neoisoastilbin might treat gouty arthritis by down-regulating TLRs/MyD88/NF-κB signaling pathway and NLRP3 inflammasome.

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