Sex hormone-like Effects of Icariin on T-cells immune modulation in spontaneously hypertensive rats

J Ethnopharmacol. 2021 Apr 6;269:113717. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2020.113717. Epub 2020 Dec 24.


ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE: Epimedium brevicornu Maxim as a Chinese herb, is recommended for the treatment of menopausal women with hypertension for 50 years. Icariin, as the main hydrophilic ingredient of Epimedium brevicornu Maxim, has been proven to be a plant sex hormone and lower blood pressure down. Here, we hypothesized that Icariin can regulate T cells differentiation which leads to the blood pressure decrease in castrated SHR rats.

AIM OF THE STUDY: The present study aimed to investigate the effects of the exogenous estrogen, androgen and Icariin on T-cell modulation in hypertension.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Two weeks after castration, both male and female SHR rats were given estradiol, testosterone, and Icariin intervention respectively. Body weight, blood pressure, and heart rate were tested weekly. After six weeks, proportion of T helper cells (Th), cytotoxic T cells (Tc), and regulatory T cells (Tregs) in both peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and splenocytes were tested by flowcytometry. Serum levels of estrogen, testosterone, AngII, TNF-α, IL-17 were tested by Elisa. Aortic arches were isolated for HE and Masson staining. The expressions of ERβ and AR in aorta were tested by Western-blot.

RESULTS: In both male and female SHR rats, we found that Icariin and estradiol lower blood pressure, but testosterone elevates blood pressure. Similar as testosterone, Icariin can attenuate Tc and Th proportions and elevate Tregs proportion in both peripheral blood and splenocyte in male SHR, which can be blunt by flutamide. Besides, Icariin performs similar function as estradiol that attenuates Tc proportions and elevates Tregs proportion in both peripheral blood and splenocytes in female SHR, which leads to the lower blood pressure and can be partly blunt by fulvestrant. Testosterone increases AngII and TNF-α levels in serum, leading to the higher blood pressure in both male and female SHR rats.

CONCLUSION: These results verified that Icariin, as a plant sex hormone, can regulate T cells differentiation related to blood pressure decrease in SHR rats.

PMID:33359002 | DOI:10.1016/j.jep.2020.113717