The antifibrotic and anti-inflammatory effects of icariin on the kidney in a unilateral ureteral obstruction mouse model

Hsin‐An A. Chen, Chang Mu Chen, Siao Syun Guan, Chih Kang Chiang, Cheng Tien Wu, Shing Hwa Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The pathology change of renal tubulointerstitial fibrosis is a critical feature of chronic kidney disease (CKD), regardless of the primary insults. The infiltration of inflammatory cells and the consecutive secretion of profibrotic factors are frequently and conspicuously observed during the development of renal fibrosis. Icariin, an active polyphenol of the Epimedium genus, has been found to alleviate the symptoms of chronic diseases like diabetes, neurodegeneration, and heart and renal diseases. The effect and mechanism of icariin on the prevention of CKD-associated renal fibrosis still needed clarification. Purpose: The aims of this study were to investigate whether icariin treatment improves the development of CKD-associated renal fibrosis and its possible mechanism. Methods: An experimental unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO)-induced chronic renal fibrosis mouse model was used. Mice were orally administered with icariin (20 mg/kg/day) for 3 consecutive days before and 14 consecutive days after UUO surgery. Results: The pathological changes, collagen deposition, and protein expressions of profibrotic factors (transforming growth factor-β and connective tissue growth factor) and fibrotic markers (α-smooth muscle actin and fibronectin), which were significantly elevated in the kidneys of UUO mice, could be significantly reversed by icariin treatment. Icariin treatment also significantly inhibited the increased Smad2/3 and decreased E-cadherin protein expressions in the kidneys of UUO mice. Icariin treatment prominently mitigated the protein expression of proinflammatory factors like nuclear factor-κB, cyclooxygenase-2, interleukin 1-β and prooxidative enzyme (NADPH oxidase-4), and it increased the protein expression of antioxidative enzymes (superoxide dismutase and catalase). Conclusion: Icariin treatment protects against CKD-associated renal fibrosis via its antifibrotic and anti-inflammatory properties. Icariin may serve as a therapeutic agent in the prevention of CKD-associated renal fibrosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number152917
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Icariin
  • Renal fibrosis
  • Transforming growth factor-β
  • Unilateral ureteral obstruction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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