Bioactivity evaluation-based ultra high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with electrospray ionization tandem quadrupole-time-of-flight mass spectrometry and novel distinction of multi-subchemome compatibility recognition strategy with Astragali Radix-Fructus Corni herb-pair as a case study

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The approach to investigate traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is still in its infancy and has been facing enormous challenge. In this paper, a generally applicable strategy was developed for investigation on TCM systematically with an introduced interesting idea about a novel research system which called subchemome. A representative herb-pair, Astragali Radix-Fructus Corni, was successfully employed to expound this novel strategy. Firstly, subchemomes were prepared individually by applying the suitable column chromatography, each of them was detected by UV spectrophotometer or HPLC-DAD detector. The components in each part were then identified based on the mass spectrometric fragmentation patterns and tandem mass spectrometric data by using UHPLC-Q-TOF-MS. Using renal mesangial cell (RMC) viability assay as the evaluation of the pharmacological activity of each group, we developed the new mini herbal formulae aimed at diabetic nephropathy and identified fifteen marker components between the group of new mini herbal formulae and other groups from the angle of the constituent, and then explored the effects of new mini herbal formulae from another angle of the molecular mechanism. Overall, the presently developed strategy should be beneficial and widely used in the investigation on TCM from a new perspective.

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