Uncovering the Complexity Mechanism of Different Formulas Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis Based on a Novel Network Pharmacology Model

Ke Xin Wang, Yao Gao, Cheng Lu, Yao Li, Bo Ya Zhou, Xue Mei Qin, Guan Hua Du, Li Gao*, Dao Gang Guan*, Ai Ping Lu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
35 Downloads (Pure)


Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) with the characteristics of “multi-component-multi-target-multi-pathway” has obvious advantages in the prevention and treatment of complex diseases, especially in the aspects of “treating the same disease with different treatments”. However, there are still some problems such as unclear substance basis and molecular mechanism of the effectiveness of formula. Network pharmacology is a new strategy based on system biology and poly-pharmacology, which could observe the intervention of drugs on disease networks at systematical and comprehensive level, and especially suitable for study of complex TCM systems. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease, causing articular and extra articular dysfunctions among patients, it could lead to irreversible joint damage or disability if left untreated. TCM formulas, Danggui-Sini-decoction (DSD), Guizhi-Fuzi-decoction (GFD), and Huangqi-Guizhi-Wuwu-Decoction (HGWD), et al., have been found successful in controlling RA in clinical applications. Here, a network pharmacology-based approach was established. With this model, key gene network motif with significant (KNMS) of three formulas were predicted, and the molecular mechanism of different formula in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was inferred based on these KNMSs. The results show that the KNMSs predicted by the model kept a high consistency with the corresponding C-T network in coverage of RA pathogenic genes, coverage of functional pathways and cumulative contribution of key nodes, which confirmed the reliability and accuracy of our proposed KNMS prediction strategy. All validated KNMSs of each RA therapy-related formula were employed to decode the mechanisms of different formulas treat the same disease. Finally, the key components in KNMSs of each formula were evaluated by in vitro experiments. Our proposed KNMS prediction and validation strategy provides methodological reference for interpreting the optimization of core components group and inference of molecular mechanism of formula in the treatment of complex diseases in TCM.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1035
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

User-Defined Keywords

  • key gene network motif with significant (KNMS)
  • mechanisms
  • network pharmacology
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)


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