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PLoS One. 2017 Feb 9;12(2):e0171628. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0171628. eCollection 2017.

Natural formulas and the nature of formulas: Exploring potential therapeutic targets based on traditional Chinese herbal formulas.

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State Key Laboratory of Quality Research in Chinese Medicine, Institute of Chinese Medical Sciences, University of Macau, Macau, the People's Republic of China.
Pharmacy School, Zunyi Medical College, Zunyi, Guizhou, the People's Republic of China.
Department of Complex Prescription of Traditional Chinese Medicine, China Pharmaceutical University, Nanjing, the People's Republic of China.
Beijing Jiaotong University, Beijing, the People's Republic of China.


By comparing the target proteins (TPs) of classic traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) herbal formulas and modern drugs used for treating coronary artery disease (CAD), this study aimed to identify potential therapeutic TPs for treating CAD. Based on the theory of TCM, the Xuefu-Zhuyu decoction (XZD) and Gualou-Xiebai-Banxia decoction (GXBD), both of which are classic herbal formulas, were selected for treating CAD. Data on the chemical ingredients and corresponding TPs of the herbs in these two formulas and data on modern drugs approved for treating CAD and related TPs were retrieved from professional TCM and bioinformatics databases. Based on the associations between the drugs or ingredients and their TPs, the TP networks of XZD, GXBD, and modern drugs approved for treating CAD were constructed separately and then integrated to create a complex master network in which the vertices represent the TPs and the edges, the ingredients or drugs that are linked to the TPs. The reliability of this master network was validated through statistical tests. The common TPs of the two herbal formulas have a higher possibility of being targeted by modern drugs in comparison with the formula-specific TPs. A total of 114 common XZD and GXBD TPs that are not yet the target of modern drugs used for treating CAD should be experimentally investigated as potential therapeutic targets for treating CAD. Among these TPs, the top 10 are NOS3, PTPN1, GABRA1, PRKACA, CDK2, MAOB, ESR1, ADH1C, ADH1B, and AKR1B1. The results of this study provide a valuable reference for further experimental investigations of therapeutic targets for CAD. The established method shows promise for searching for potential therapeutic TPs based on herbal formulas. It is crucial for this work to select beneficial therapeutic targets of TCM, typical TCM syndromes, and corresponding classic formulas.

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