Changes in metabolites in raw and wine processed Corni Fructus combination metabolomics with network analysis focusing on potential hypoglycemic effects
Introduction: Corni Fructus (CF) is a Chinese herbal medicine used for medicinal and dietary purposes. It is available commercially in two main forms: raw CF (unprocessed CF) and wine-processed CF. Clinical observations have indicated that wine-processed CF exhibits superior hypoglycemic activity compared to its raw counterpart. However, the mechanisms responsible for this improvement are not well understood. Methods: To address this gap in knowledge, we conducted metabolomics analysis using ultra-performance liquid chromatography-quadrupole/time-of-flight mass spectrometry (UPLC-QTOF-MS) to compare the chemical composition of raw CF and wine-processed CF. Subsequently, network analysis, along with immunofluorescence assays, was employed to elucidate the potential targets and mechanisms underlying the hypoglycemic effects of metabolites in CF. Results: Our results revealed significant compositional differences between raw CF and wine-processed CF, identifying 34 potential markers for distinguishing between the two forms of CF. Notably, wine processing led to a marked decrease in iridoid glycosides and flavonoid glycosides, which are abundant in raw CF. Network analysis predictions provided clues that eight compounds might serve as hypoglycemic metabolites of CF, and glucokinase (GCK) and adenylate cyclase (ADCYs) were speculated as possible key targets responsible for the hypoglycemic effects of CF. Immunofluorescence assays confirmed that oleanolic acid and ursolic acid, two bioactive compounds present in CF, significantly upregulated the expression of GCK and ADCYs in the HepG2 cell model. Discussion: These findings support the notion that CF exerted hypoglycemic activity via multiple components and targets, shedding light on the impact of processing methods on the chemical composition and hypoglycemic activity of Chinese herbal medicine.