Research Papers:

Qilin pills alleviate oligoasthenospermia by inhibiting Bax-caspase-9 apoptosis pathway in the testes of model rats

Kaishu Zhang, Zhengyan Ge, Longlong Fu, Qi An, Fang Zhou, Ying Guo, Xiaowei Wang, Wenhong Lu, Xiaowei Liang, Shusong Wang, Xuejun Shang and Yiqun Gu _

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:21770-21782. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.24985

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Kaishu Zhang1,2,3, Zhengyan Ge4, Longlong Fu1,2, Qi An1,2, Fang Zhou1,2, Ying Guo2, Xiaowei Wang2, Wenhong Lu2, Xiaowei Liang2, Shusong Wang5, Xuejun Shang6 and Yiqun Gu1,2

1Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Graduate School of Peking Union Medical College, Beijing 100730, China

2National Health and Family Planning Key Laboratory of Male Reproductive Health, Department of Male Clinical Research, National Research Institute for Family Planning & WHO Collaborating Center for Research in Human Reproduction, Beijing 100081, China

3Department of Reproductive Medicine, The Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University, Qingdao 266003, China

4Institute of Basic Medical Sciences of Xiyuan Hospital, China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijng Municipal Key Laboratory of Pharmacology of Chinese Meteria Medica, Beijing 100091, China

5Hebei Research Institute for Family Planning, Shijiazhuang 050071, China

6Department of Andrology, Jinling Hospital Affiliated to Southern Medical University, Nanjing 210002, China

Correspondence to:

Yiqun Gu, email: [email protected]

Xuejun Shang, email: [email protected]

Keywords: qilin pills; male infertility; oligoasthenospermia; apoptosis; tripterygium glycosides

Received: September 03, 2017    Accepted: March 14, 2018    Published: April 24, 2018


At present, the treatment of oligoasthenospermia with western medicine is ineffective. Qilin pill (QLP) is a Chinese traditional medicine for treating male infertility. Recent multicenter clinical studies in China reported that QLPs markedly improved sperm quality. However, the mechanism of action of QLPs on oligoasthenospermia remains unknown. In this study, we investigated the mechanistic basis for improvement of semen parameters and reversal of testis damage by QLPs in a rat model of oligoasthenospermia induced by treatment with tripterygium glycosides (TGs) (40 mg/kg) once daily for 4 weeks. Rats were administered QLPs (1.62 g/kg or 3.24 g/kg) each day for 60 days, with untreated animals serving as controls. The concentration and motility of sperm extracted from rat epididymis were determined, whereas histopathological examination and immunohistochemical apoptosis analysis of rat testes was performed. Expression profiles of apoptosis-related genes were determined by microarray analysis; the results were validated by quantitative real-time PCR, western blotting, and immunohistochemistry. Sperm concentration and motility in the QLP treatment group were increased relative to those in control rats. Testis tissue and DNA damage were reversed by QLP treatment. The improvement function of QLPs on sperm and testis works mainly by suppressing mitochondrial apoptosis in the testis via modulation of B cell lymphoma (Bcl)-2, Bcl-2-associated X protein (Bax), cytochrome C, caspase-9 and caspase-3 expression. QLPs could improve sperm quality and testis damage in a rat model of oligoasthenospermia by inhibiting the Bax-Caspase-9 apoptosis pathway and exerting therapeutic effects.

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