The estrogenic properties of Danggui Buxue Tang, a Chinese herbal decoction, are triggered predominantly by calycosin in MCF-7 cells.J Ethnopharmacol. 2016 Aug 02; 189:81-9.JE
Danggui Buxue Tang (DBT), a Chinese herbal decoction containing Astragali Radix (AR; roots of Astragalus memebranaceus (Fisch.) Bunge var. mongholicus (Bunge) Hsiao) and Angelicae Sinensis Radix (ASR; roots of Angelica sinensis Oliv.) at a weight ratio of 5:1, is used to improve menopausal syndromes in women. Several lines of evidence indicate that DBT has strong estrogenic property; however, the action mechanism of this herbal decoction is not known. Calycosin, a major flavonoid in AR, shares similar structure with β-estradiol, and thus which is hypothesized to be the key compound of DBT in responsible for such estrogenic properties.
We aimed to determine the role of calycosin in DBT in terms of its estrogenic functions by the creation of calycosin-depleted DBT (DBTΔcal) and calycosin-added DBT (DBT+cal) herbal extracts.
The signalings triggered by DBT∆cal, DBT+cal, and parental DBT were compared in cultured MCF-7 cells by determining: (i) the activation of estrogen responsive element; (ii) the phosphorylation of estrogen receptor α (ERα); and (iii) the phosphorylation of Erk1/2. The DBT-induced responses were in dose- and/or time-dependent manners.
The estrogenic signals triggered by DBT were markedly reduced in DBTΔcal, and in contrast the addition of calycosin in DBT, i.e. DBT+cal, enhanced the responses by 2-5 folds; however, calycosin alone did not show such properties. In parallel, the DBT-induced responses could be significantly blocked by inhibitors for estrogen receptor and mitogen activated protein kinases.
Thus, we hypothesize that calycosin is an indispensable chemical in DBT, and which plays a linker in orchestrating multi-components of DBT as to achieve the maximal estrogenic functions. These discoveries should be invaluable in drug development and in investigating the modernization of traditional Chinese medicine from a new perspective.