Pentacyclic triterpenoid acids in Styrax as potent and highly specific inhibitors against human carboxylesterase 1A†
Human carboxylesterase 1A1 (hCES1A) is a promising target for the treatment of hyperlipidemia and obesity-associated metabolic diseases. To date, the highly specific and efficacious hCES1A inhibitors are rarely reported. This study aims to find potent and highly specific hCES1A inhibitors from herbs, and to investigate their inhibitory mechanisms. Following large-scale screening of herbal products, Styrax was found to have the most potent hCES1A inhibition activity. After that, a practical bioactivity-guided fractionation coupling with a chemical profiling strategy was used to identify the fractions from Styrax with strong hCES1A inhibition activity and the major constituents in these bioactive fractions were characterized by LC-TOF-MS/MS. The results demonstrated that seven pentacyclic triterpenoid acids (PTAs) in two bioactive fractions from Styrax potently inhibit hCES1A, with IC50 values ranging from 41 nM to 478 nM. Among all the identified PTAs, epibetulinic acid showed the most potent inhibition activity and excellent specificity towards hCES1A. Both inhibition kinetic analyses and in silico analysis suggested that epibetulinic acid potently inhibited hCES1A in a mixed inhibition manner. Collectively, our findings demonstrate that some PTAs in Styrax are potent and highly specific inhibitors of hCES1A and these constituents can be used as promising lead compounds for the development of more efficacious hCES1A inhibitors.