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Journal of Integrative Medicine


Genome-wide analysis of hippocampal transfer RNA-derived small RNAs identifies new potential therapeutic targets of Bushen Tiansui formula against Alzheimer’s disease

Zhe-yu Zhanga,1, Chun-hu Zhangb,1, Jing-jing Yangb, Pan-pan Xua, Peng-ji Yia, Mu-li Huc, Wei-jun Penga   

  1. a. Department of Integrated Traditional Chinese & Western Medicine, the Second Xiangya Hospital, Central South University, Changsha 410011, Hunan Province, China
    b. Department of Integrated Traditional Chinese & Western Medicine, Xiangya Hospital, Central South University, Changsha 410008, Hunan Province, China
    c. Department of Scientific Research, the Second Xiangya Hospital, Central South University, Changsha 410011, Hunan Province, Chin
  • Received:2019-12-23 Accepted:2020-03-25
  • Contact: Wen-jun Peng


Bushen Tiansui formula (BSTSF), a traditional Chinese medicine prescription, has been widely used to treat Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, the mechanisms underlying its effects remain largely unknown. In this study, a rat AD model was used to study the effects of BSTSF on cognitive performance and expression of transfer RNA-derived small RNAs (tsRNAs) in the hippocampus, to determine whether treatment of AD with BSTSF could regulate the expression of tsRNAs, a novel small non-coding RNA.


To generate a validated AD model, oligomeric amyloid-β1-42 (Aβ1-42) was injected intracerebroventricularly into rats. The Morris water maze (MWM) test was used to evaluate rat cognitive performance, and tsRNA-sequencing was conducted to examine tsRNA expression in the rat hippocampus. Potential targets were validated by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). Bioinformatic analyses were conducted to investigate the biological function of candidate tsRNAs.


The learning and memory deficits of Aβ1–42-induced AD rats, assessed by MWM tests, were clearly ameliorated by BSTSF treatment. A total of 387 tsRNAs were detected in the rat hippocampus. Among them, 13 were significantly dysregulated in AD rats compared with sham control rats, while 57 were markedly altered by BSTSF treatment, relative to untreated AD rats (fold change ≥ 2 and P < 0.05). Moreover, six BSTSF treatment-related tsRNAs were identified and validated by qRT-PCR. Bioinformatic analyses indicated that the six treatment-related tsRNAs had potential therapeutic roles, via multiple signaling pathways and Gene Ontology biological functions, including cyclic adenosine monophosphate and retrograde endocannabinoid signaling.


This study identified a previously uncharacterized mechanism underlying the effects of BSTSF in alleviating the learning and memory deficits in Aβ1–42-induced AD rats, demonstrating that tsRNAs are potential therapeutic targets of BSTSF in the treatment of AD.

Key words: Traditional Chinese medicine, Alzheimer’s disease, Endocannabinoids, Hippocampus, Small non-coding RNAs, Transfer RNA

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