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BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014 Jan 11;14:14. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-14-14.

Sho-saiko-to, a traditional herbal medicine, regulates gene expression and biological function by way of microRNAs in primary mouse hepatocytes.

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Herbal Medicine Research Division, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, 1672 Yuseongdae-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon 305-811, Republic of Korea.



Sho-saiko-to (SST) (also known as so-shi-ho-tang or xiao-chai-hu-tang) has been widely prescribed for chronic liver diseases in traditional Oriental medicine. Despite the substantial amount of clinical evidence for SST, its molecular mechanism has not been clearly identified at a genome-wide level.


By using a microarray, we analyzed the temporal changes of messenger RNA (mRNA) and microRNA expression in primary mouse hepatocytes after SST treatment. The pattern of genes regulated by SST was identified by using time-series microarray analysis. The biological function of genes was measured by pathway analysis. For the identification of the exact targets of the microRNAs, a permutation-based correlation method was implemented in which the temporal expression of mRNAs and microRNAs were integrated. The similarity of the promoter structure between temporally regulated genes was measured by analyzing the transcription factor binding sites in the promoter region.


The SST-regulated gene expression had two major patterns: (1) a temporally up-regulated pattern (463 genes) and (2) a temporally down-regulated pattern (177 genes). The integration of the genes and microRNA demonstrated that 155 genes could be the targets of microRNAs from the temporally up-regulated pattern and 19 genes could be the targets of microRNAs from the temporally down-regulated pattern. The temporally up-regulated pattern by SST was associated with signaling pathways such as the cell cycle pathway, whereas the temporally down-regulated pattern included drug metabolism-related pathways and immune-related pathways. All these pathways could be possibly associated with liver regenerative activity of SST. Genes targeted by microRNA were moreover associated with different biological pathways from the genes not targeted by microRNA. An analysis of promoter similarity indicated that co-expressed genes after SST treatment were clustered into subgroups, depending on the temporal expression patterns.


We are the first to identify that SST regulates temporal gene expression by way of microRNA. MicroRNA targets and non-microRNA targets moreover have different biological roles. This functional segregation by microRNA would be critical for the elucidation of the molecular activities of SST.

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