Research Papers: Immunology:

Medicinal herbs Fructus corni and Semen cuscutae suppress allograft rejection via distinct immune mechanisms

Xusheng Liu, Yu-Qun Zeng, Yong-Zhuo Liang, Chuan Zou, Huazhen Liu, Feifei Qiu, Chun-Lin Liang, Xiao-Wei Jin, Zi-Ren Su and Zhenhua Dai _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:35680-35691. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.9680

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Xusheng Liu1,*, Yu-Qun Zeng1,*, Yong-Zhuo Liang2,*, Chuan Zou1,*, Huazhen Liu3,*, Feifei Qiu3, Chun-Lin Liang3, Xiao-Wei Jin3, Zi-Ren Su2 and Zhenhua Dai1,3

1 Department of Nephrology, the Second Clinical College, Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, Guangzhou, Guangdong, P.R. China

2 School of Chinese Materia Medica, Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, Guangzhou, Guangdong, P.R. China

3 Section of Immunology, Guangdong Provincial Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Guangzhou, Guangdong, P.R. China

* These authors have contributed equally to this study

Correspondence to:

Zhenhua Dai, email:

Keywords: T cells, immunosuppression, herbs and transplantation, Immunology and Microbiology Section, Immune response, Immunity

Received: November 17, 2015 Accepted: May 17, 2016 Published: May 31, 2016


Achieving long-term allograft survival without continuous global immunosuppression is highly desirable because constant immunosuppression causes severe side effects. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been utilized to treat numerous diseases for centuries. To seek novel immunosuppressive agents, we investigated several Chinese herbal formulas that have been shown to be effective in treating autoimmune diseases. C57BL/6 mice were transplanted with a skin graft from Balb/C donors and treated orally with the TCM. IL-12-expressing dendritic cells and CD4+FoxP3+ Tregs were quantified by flow cytometer while intragraft IL-12 gene expression was measured by real-time PCR. Here we identified a unique TCM, San Si formula, which contains three herbs: Fructus corni (FC), Fructus ligustri lucidi (FLL) and Semen cuscutae (SC). We found that either SC or FC, but not FLL, significantly prolonged skin allograft survival while SC plus FC or San Si formula further delayed allograft rejection compared to SC or FC alone. SC and FC, which did not contain cyclosporine and rapamycin, reduced graft-infiltrating T cells and suppressed their proliferation. Importantly, it was SC, but not FC, that induced CD4+FoxP3+ Tregs in recipients. Tregs induced by SC were also more potent in suppression. In contrast, FC repressed both intracellular IL-12 expression by intragraft DCs and IFNγ expression by graft-infiltrating T cells. Moreover, FC inhibited intragraft IL-12 gene expression. Depleting Tregs and providing exogenous IL-12 completely reversed allograft survival induced by SC plus FC. Thus, SC and FC synergistically suppress allograft rejection via distinct mechanisms.

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