Lycium barbarum mitigates radiation injury via regulation of the immune function, gut microbiota, and related metabolites.
Biomed Pharmacother. 2021 Jul ;139:111654. Epub 2021 May 3. PMID: 33957563
Previous studies have suggested that Lycium barbarum (L. barbarum) has a radioprotective function, although more in-depth investigation is still required. We investigated the radioprotective efficacy of extract of the fruits of L. barbarum (LBE) and its radioprotective mechanisms. Mice were exposed to 8.5 Gy, 5.5 Gy, or 6.0 Gy total body irradiation (TBI), and the survival rate, lymphocyte percentage, amount of cytokines, and viability of the irradiated cells, as well as the gut microbiome and fecal metabolomics were studied. LBE enhanced the survival of the mice exposed to 8.5 Gy γ-ray TBI or5.5 Gy X-ray TBI. After 6.0 Gy γ-ray TBI, LBE exhibited good immunomodulatory properties, mainly characterized by the accelerated recovery of lymphocyte percentages, and the enhanced expression of immune-related cytokines. LBE reconstituted the gut microbiota of irradiated mice, increased the relative abundance of potentially beneficial genera (e.g., Turicibacter, Akkermansia), and decreased the relative abundance of potentially harmful bacterial genera (e.g., Rikenellaceae_RC9_gut_group). Beneficial regulatory effects of LBE on the host metabolites were also noted, and the major upregulated metabolites induced by LBE, such as Tetrahydrofolic acid and N-ornithyl-L-taurine, were positively correlated with the immune factor interleukin (IL)-6. In vitro, LBE also increased the vitality of rat small intestinal epithelial cells (IEC-6) after 4.0 Gy γ-ray irradiation and promoted the growth of Akkermansia muciniphila. These results confirmed a radioprotective function of LBE and indicated that the radioprotective mechanism may be due to immunomodulation and the synergistically modulating effect on the gut microbiota and related metabolites.