To Elucidate the Inhibition of Excessive Autophagy of <i>Rhodiola crenulata</i> on Exhaustive Exercise-Induced Skeletal Muscle Injury by Combined Network Pharmacology and Molecular Docking
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Autophagy can remodel skeletal muscle in response to exercise. However, excessive autophagy can have adverse effects on skeletal muscle. Although Rhodiola crenulata (R. crenulata) is thought to regulate autophagy, its active ingredients and mechanisms of action remain unclear. In this study, molecular docking and network pharmacology were used to screen for autophagy-related targets of R. crenulata. Subsequently, protein-protein interaction (PPI) analysis was used to find the relationships between the inverse docking targets and autophagy-related targets and therefore highlight the key targets. And then the Database for Annotation, Visualization, and Integrated Discovery (DAVID) database was recruited to explain the functions and enrichment pathways of the target proteins. Finally, the potential targets were validated by immunohistochemistry of a mouse model of exhaustive exercise-induced skeletal muscle injury. We found a network of 15 major constituents of R. crenulata with 30 autophagy-related and 105 inverse-docking targets by molecular docking and network pharmacology. The results of PPI analysis indicated that 16 inverse-docking targets interacted 8 autophagy-related proteins. Further pathway analysis showed that R. crenulata could regulate exercise-induced skeletal muscle autophagy through mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), AMP activated protein kinase (AMPK) and Forkhead box protein O (FoxO). The results of our animal experiments indicated that R. crenulata could suppress the expression of Ubiquitin-like protein ATG12 (ATG12), Beclin-1 (BECN1), and Serine/threonine-protein kinase ULK1 (ULK1), while increasing the expression of MTOR, NAD-dependent protein deacetylase sirtuin-1 (SIRT1), and Microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT). In conclusion, this study demonstrated that R. crenulata may protect skeletal muscle injury induced by exhaustive exercise via regulating the mTOR, AMPK, and FoxO singling pathway.