Untargeted metabolomics revealed therapeutic mechanisms of icariin on low bone mineral density in older caged laying hens†
Osteoporosis is a common chronic disease in the elderly population and in some domestic animals. Caged layer osteoporosis (CLO) is a common bone metabolism disease that was recently recommended as an ideal animal model for osteoporosis. This study aimed to investigate the therapeutic effect and mechanism of dietary icariin (ICA), the main bioactive component of the Chinese herb Epimedium, on low bone mineral density (BMD) in older caged laying hens. A total of 216, 54-week-old Lohmann pink-shell laying hens were allocated to three groups, comprising one control group and two treatment groups that were additionally supplied with 0.5 or 2.0 g kg−1 ICA. The results showed that dietary ICA significantly increased the femur BMD by 49.3% and the tibia BMD by 38.9%, improved the microstructure of bone tissue, decreased levels of the bone metabolism index, enhanced serum antioxidant capacity and regulated messenger RNA expression of bone-related genes. ICA-induced differential metabolites were clarified by using untargeted metabolomics assays. Furthermore, correlation analysis between differential metabolites and BMD indicated that eight differential metabolites correlated highly with both femur and tibia BMD, including uridine, taurine, palmitic acid, adrenic acid, fexofenadine, lysoPC(18 : 1), lysoPE(20 : 3/0 : 0) and 3-acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid. ICA mainly perturbed pyrimidine metabolism, taurine metabolism and lipid metabolism, which led to increased BMD in older caged laying hens. These findings revealed underlying therapeutic mechanisms of dietary ICA on low BMD, and provided reference metabolites for the early diagnosis of osteoporosis.