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Journal of Integrative Medicine ›› 2020, Vol. 18 ›› Issue (6): 505-513.doi: 10.1016/j.joim.2020.08.006

• Original Experimental Research • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Fuzheng Huayu recipe, a traditional Chinese compound herbal medicine, attenuates renal interstitial fibrosis via targeting the miR-21/PTEN/AKT axis

Qing-lan Wanga,b,c, Yan-yan Taoc, Hong-dong Xiec, Cheng-hai Liub,c, Ping Liub,c    

  1. a. Teaching & Research Department of Clinical and Classic Medicine, College of Basic Medical Science, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 201203, China
    b. E-institute of Shanghai Municipal Education Committee, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 210203, China
    c. Institute of Liver Diseases, Shuguang Hospital affiliated to Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 210203, China
  • Received:2020-05-14 Revised:2020-05-14 Accepted:2020-07-01 Online:2020-11-10 Published:2020-08-28
  • Contact: Cheng-hai Liu, Ping Liu;


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) may be viable targets for treating renal interstitial fibrosis (RIF). Fuzheng Huayu recipe (FZHY), a traditional Chinese compound herbal medicine, is often used in China to treat fibrosis. This study sought to assess the mechanisms through which FZHY influences miRNAs to treat RIF.


RIF was induced in rats by mercury chloride and treated with FZHY. Hydroxyproline content, Masson’s staining and type I collagen expression were used to evaluate renal collagen deposition. Renal miRNA profiles were evaluated using a miRNA microarray. Those miRNAs that were differentially expressed following FZHY treatment were identified and subjected to bioinformatic analyses. The miR-21 target gene phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) expression and AKT phosphorylation in kidney tissues were assessed via Western blotting. In addition, HK-2 human proximal tubule epithelial cells were treated using angiotensin II (Ang-II) to induce epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), followed by FZHY exposure. miR-21 and PTEN expressions were evaluated via quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR), while E-cadherin and α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) expressions were assessed by immunofluorescent staining and qRT-PCR. Western blotting was used to assess PTEN and AKT phosphorylation.


FZHY significantly decreased kidney collagen deposition, hydroxyproline content and type I collagen level. The miRNA microarray identified 20 miRNAs that were differentially expressed in response to FZHY treatment. Subsequent bioinformatic analyses found that miR-21 was the key fibrosis-related miRNA regulated by FZHY. FZHY also decreased PTEN expression and AKT phosphorylation in fibrotic kidneys. Results from in vitro tests also suggested that FZHY promoted E-cadherin upregulation and inhibited α-SMA expression in Ang-II-treated HK-2 cells, effectively reversing Ang-II-mediated EMT. We also determined that FZHY reduced miR-21 expression, increased PTEN expression and decreased AKT phosphorylation in these cells.


miR-21 is the key fibrosis-related miRNA regulated by FZHY. The ability of FZHY to modulate miR-21/PTEN/AKT signaling may be a viable approach for treating RIF.

Key words: Fuzheng Huayu recipe, Chinese herbal medicine, Renal interstitial fibrosis, miR-21, PTEN, AKT, microRNA

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