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Zuotai and cinnabar(96%HgS) are contained in many traditional medicines. To examine their potential effects on drug metabolism genes, mice were orally given Zuotai or HgS at doses of 10, 30, 100, 300 mg•kg⁻¹ for 7 days. HgCl2(33.6 mg•kg⁻¹) was gavaged for control. Twenty-four hour later after the last administration, livers were collected, and expressions of genes related to metabolic enzymes and transporters were examined. Zuotai and HgS had no effects on major phase-1, phase-2 and transporter genes; HgCl2 increased the expressions of CYP2B10, CYP4A10, OATP1A4, UGT1A1, UGT2A3, SULT1A1, SULT2A1, MRP1, MRP3 and MRP4; expression of OATP1A1 was decreased by HgCl2, but not by Zuotai and HgS. Therefore, Zuotai and HgS have different adverse effects on drug-metabolizing genes from HgCl2.

ETHNOPHARMOCOLOGICAL RELEVANCE: Herbo-metallic preparations have a long history in the treatment of diseases, and are still used today for refractory diseases, as adjuncts to standard therapy, or for economic reasons in developing countries.AIM OF THE REVIEW: This review uses cinnabar (HgS) and realgar (As4S4) as mineral examples to discuss their occurrence, therapeutic use, pharmacology, toxicity in traditional medicine mixtures, and research perspectives. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A literature search on cinnabar and realgar from PubMed, Chinese pharmacopeia, Google and other sources was carried out. Traditional medicines containing both cinnabar and realgar (An-Gong-Niu-Huang Wan, Hua-Feng-Dan); mainly cinnabar (Zhu-Sha-An-Shen Wan; Zuotai and Dangzuo), and mainly realgar (Huang-Dai Pian; Liu-Shen Wan; Niu-Huang-Jie-Du) are discussed. RESULTS: Both cinnabar and realgar used in traditional medicines are subjected to special preparation procedures to remove impurities. Metals in these traditional medicines are in the sulfide forms which are different from environmental mercurials (HgCl2, MeHg) or arsenicals (NaAsO2, NaH2AsO4). Cinnabar and/or realgar are seldom used alone, but rather as mixtures with herbs and/or animal products in traditional medicines. Advanced technologies are now used to characterize these preparations. The bioaccessibility, absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination of these herbo-metallic preparations are different from environmental metals. The rationale of including metals in traditional remedies and their interactions with drugs need to be justified. At higher therapeutic doses, balance of the benefits and risks is critical. Surveillance of patients using these herbo-metallic preparations is desired. CONCLUSION: Chemical forms of mercury and arsenic are a major determinant of their disposition, efficacy and toxicity, and the use of total Hg and As alone for risk assessment of metals in traditional medicines is insufficient.

Background. The circadian clock is involved in drug metabolism, efficacy and toxicity. Drugs could in turn affect the biological clock as a mechanism of their actions. Zuotai is an essential component of many popular Tibetan medicines for sedation, tranquil and "detoxification," and is mainly composed of metacinnabar (β-HgS). The pharmacological and/or toxicological basis of its action is unknown. This study aimed to examine the effect of Zuotai on biological clock gene expression in the liver of mice. Materials and methods. Mice were orally given Zuotai (10 mg/kg, 1.5-fold of clinical dose) daily for 7 days, and livers were collected every 4 h during the 24 h period. Total RNA was extracted and subjected to real-time RT-PCR analysis of circadian clock gene expression. Results. Zuotai decreased the oscillation amplitude of the clock core gene Clock, neuronal PAS domain protein 2 (Npas2), Brain and muscle Arnt-like protein-1 (Bmal1) at 10:00. For the clock feedback negative control genes, Zuotai had no effect on the oscillation of the clock gene Cryptochrome (Cry1) and Period genes (Per1-3). For the clock-driven target genes, Zuotai increased the oscillation amplitude of the PAR-bZip family member D-box-binding protein (Dbp), decreased nuclear factor interleukin 3 (Nfil3) at 10:00, but had no effect on thyrotroph embryonic factor (Tef); Zuotai increased the expression of nuclear receptor Rev-Erbα (Nr1d1) at 18:00, but had little influence on the nuclear receptor Rev-Erbβ (Nr1d2) and RORα. Conclusion. The Tibetan medicine Zuotai could influence the expression of clock genes, which could contribute to pharmacological and/or toxicological effects of Zuotai.