An Integrative Pharmacology Model for Decoding the Underlying Therapeutic Mechanisms of Ermiao Powder for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Jie Wu, Kexin Wang, Qinwen Liu, Yi Li, Yingying Huang, Yujie Liu, Jieqi Cai, Chuanhui Yin, Xiaowei Li, Hailang Yu, Wei Meng, Handuo Wang, Aiping Lu*, Yazi Li*, Daogang Guan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


As a systemic inflammatory arthritis disease, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is complex and hereditary. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has evident advantages in treating complex diseases, and a variety of TCM formulas have been reported that have effective treatment on RA. Clinical and pharmacological studies showed that Ermiao Powder, which consists of Phellodendron amurense Rupr. (PAR) and Atractylodes lancea (Thunb.) DC. (ALD), can be used in the treatment of RA. Currently, most studies focus on the anti-inflammatory mechanism of PAR and ALD and are less focused on their coordinated molecular mechanism. In this research, we established an integrative pharmacological strategy to explore the coordinated molecular mechanism of the two herbs of Ermiao Powder in treating RA. To explore the potential coordinated mechanism of PAR and ALD, we firstly developed a novel mathematical model to calculate the contribution score of 126 active components and 85 active components, which contributed 90% of the total contribution scores that were retained to construct the coordinated functional space. Then, the knapsack algorithm was applied to identify the core coordinated functional components from the 85 active components. Finally, we obtained the potential coordinated functional components group (CFCG) with 37 components, including wogonin, paeonol, ethyl caffeate, and magnoflorine. Also, functional enrichment analysis was performed on the targets of CFCG to explore the potential coordinated molecular mechanisms of PAR and ALD. The results indicated that the CFCG could treat RA by coordinated targeting to the genes involved in immunity and inflammation-related signal pathways, such as phosphatidylinositol 3‑kinase/protein kinase B signaling pathway, mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathway, tumor necrosis factor signaling pathway, and nuclear factor-kappa B signaling pathway. The docking and in vitro experiments were used to predict the affinity and validate the effect of CFCG and further confirm the reliability of our method. Our integrative pharmacological strategy, including CFCG identification and verification, can provide the methodological references for exploring the coordinated mechanism of TCM in treating complex diseases and contribute to improving our understanding of the coordinated mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number801350
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

User-Defined Keywords

  • coordinated functional components group (CFCG)
  • coordinated molecular mechanisms
  • Ermiao Powder (EMP)
  • rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)


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