Background: Rheumatism represents any disease condition marked with inflammation and pain in the joints, muscles, or connective tissues. Many traditional Chinese drugs have been used for a long time to treat rheumatism. However, a comprehensive information source for these drugs is still missing, and their anti-rheumatism mechanisms remain unclear. An ontology for anti-rheumatism traditional Chinese drugs would strongly support the representation, analysis, and understanding of these drugs.
Results: In this study, we first systematically collected reported information about 26 traditional Chinese decoction pieces drugs, including their chemical ingredients and adverse events (AEs). By mostly reusing terms from existing ontologies (e.g., TCMDPO for traditional Chinese medicines, NCBITaxon for taxonomy, ChEBI for chemical elements, and OAE for adverse events) and making semantic axioms linking different entities, we developed the Ontology of Chinese Medicine for Rheumatism (OCMR) that includes over 3000 class terms. Our OCMR analysis found that these 26 traditional Chinese decoction pieces are made from anatomic entities (e.g., root and stem) from 3 Bilateria animals and 23 Mesangiospermae plants. Anti-inflammatory and antineoplastic roles are important for anti-rheumatism drugs. Using the total of 555 unique ChEBI chemical entities identified from these drugs, our ChEBI-based classification analysis identified 18 anti-inflammatory, 33 antineoplastic chemicals, and 9 chemicals (including 3 diterpenoids and 3 triterpenoids) having both anti-inflammatory and antineoplastic roles. Furthermore, our study detected 22 diterpenoids and 23 triterpenoids, including 16 pentacyclic triterpenoids that are likely bioactive against rheumatism. Six drugs were found to be associated with 184 unique AEs, including three AEs (i.e., dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and anorexia) each associated with 5 drugs. Several chemical entities are classified as neurotoxins (e.g., diethyl phthalate) and allergens (e.g., eugenol), which may explain the formation of some TCD AEs. The OCMR could be efficiently queried for useful information using SPARQL scripts.
Conclusions: The OCMR ontology was developed to systematically represent 26 traditional anti-rheumatism Chinese drugs and their related information. The OCMR analysis identified possible anti-rheumatism and AE mechanisms of these drugs. Our novel ontology-based approach can also be applied to systematic representation and analysis of other traditional Chinese drugs.
Keywords: Bioinformatics; OCMR; Ontology; Rheumatism; Traditional Chinese medicine.