Systems pharmacology-based drug discovery for marine resources: an example using sea cucumber (Holothurians)

J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 May 13;165:61-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2015.02.029. Epub 2015 Feb 19.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Sea cucumber, a kind of marine animal, have long been utilized as tonic and traditional remedies in the Middle East and Asia because of its effectiveness against hypertension, asthma, rheumatism, cuts and burns, impotence, and constipation. In this study, an overall study performed on sea cucumber was used as an example to show drug discovery from marine resource by using systems pharmacology model. The value of marine natural resources has been extensively considered because these resources can be potentially used to treat and prevent human diseases. However, the discovery of drugs from oceans is difficult, because of complex environments in terms of composition and active mechanisms. Thus, a comprehensive systems approach which could discover active constituents and their targets from marine resource, understand the biological basis for their pharmacological properties is necessary.

Materials and methods: In this study, a feasible pharmacological model based on systems pharmacology was established to investigate marine medicine by incorporating active compound screening, target identification, and network and pathway analysis.

Results: As a result, 106 candidate components of sea cucumber and 26 potential targets were identified. Furthermore, the functions of sea cucumber in health improvement and disease treatment were elucidated in a holistic way based on the established compound-target and target-disease networks, and incorporated pathways.

Conclusions: This study established a novel strategy that could be used to explore specific active mechanisms and discover new drugs from marine sources.

Keywords: Drug discovery; Natural marine resource; Sea cucumber; Systems pharmacology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aquatic Organisms / chemistry
  • Drug Discovery / methods*
  • Pharmacology / methods*
  • Sea Cucumbers / chemistry*
  • Systems Biology / methods