Hippocampus and serum metabolomic studies to explore the regulation of Chaihu-Shu-Gan-San on metabolic network disturbances of rats exposed to chronic variable stress†
Chaihu-Shu-Gan-San (CSGS), a traditional Chinese medicine formula, has been effectively used for the treatment of depression. However, studies of its anti-depressive mechanism are challenging, due to the complex pathophysiology of depression, and complexity of CSGS with multiple constituents acting on different receptors. In the present work, metabolomic studies of biochemical changes in the hippocampus and serum of chronic variable stress (CVS)-induced depression rats after treatment with CSGS were performed using ultra performance liquid chromatography coupled with quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (UPLC-QTOF-MS). Partial least squares-discriminate analysis indicated that the metabolic perturbation induced by CVS was reduced by treatment with CSGS. A total of twenty-six metabolites (16 from the hippocampus and 10 from serum) were considered as potential biomarkers involved in the development of depression. Among them, 11 were first reported to have potential relevance in the pathogenesis of depression, and 25 may correlate to the regulation of CSGS treatment on depression. The results combined with a previous study indicated that CSGS mediated synergistically abnormalities of the metabolic network, composed of energy metabolism, synthesis of neurotransmitters, tryptophan, phospholipids, fatty acid and bile acid metabolism, bone loss and liver detoxification, which may be helpful for understanding its mechanism of action. Furthermore, the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signal pathway, involved in the neuronal protective mechanism of depression related to energy metabolism, was investigated by western blot analysis. The results showed that CSGS reversed disruptions of BDNF, ERK1/2 and pERK1/2 in CVS rats, which provides the first evidence that the ERK signal system may be one of the targets related to the antidepressant action of CSGS.