Uncovering the mechanisms of Chinese herbal medicine (MaZiRenWan) for functional constipation by focused network pharmacology approach

Tao Huang, Ziwan Ning, Dongdong Hu, Man Zhang, Ling Zhao, Chengyuan Lin, Linda L. D. Zhong, Zhijun Yang, Hongxi Xu, Zhaoxiang Bian*, MZRW Research Group

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


MaZiRenWan (MZRW, also known as Hemp Seed Pill) is a Chinese Herbal Medicine which has been demonstrated to safely and effectively alleviate functional constipation (FC) in a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical study with 120 subjects. However, the underlying pharmacological actions of MZRW for FC, are still largely unknown. We systematically analyzed the bioactive compounds of MZRW and mechanism-of-action biological targets through a novel approach called "focused network pharmacology." Among the 97 compounds identified by UPLC-QTOF-MS/MS in MZRW extract, 34 were found in rat plasma, while 10 were found in rat feces. Hierarchical clustering analysis suggest that these compounds can be classified into component groups, in which compounds are highly similar to each other and most of them are from the same herb. Emodin, amygdalin, albiflorin, honokiol, and naringin were selected as representative compounds of corresponding component groups. All of them were shown to induce spontaneous contractions of rat colonic smooth muscle in vitro. Network analysis revealed that biological targets in acetylcholine-, estrogen-, prostaglandin-, cannabinoid-, and purine signaling pathways are able to explain the prokinetic effects of representative compounds and corresponding component groups. In conclusion, MZRW active components enhance colonic motility, possibly by acting on multiple targets and pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Article number270
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese Herbal Medicine
  • Component group
  • Focused network pharmacology
  • Functional constipation
  • MaZiRenWan
  • Representative compound


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