Unlike Western medicines with single-target, the traditional Chinese medicines (TCM) always exhibit diverse curative effects against multiple diseases through its "multi-components" and "multi-targets" manifestations. However, discovery and identification of the major therapeutic diseases and the underlying molecular mechanisms of TCM remain to be challenged. In the current study, we, for the first time, applied an integrated strategy by combining network pharmacology with experimental evaluation, for exploration and demonstration of the therapeutic potentials and the underlying possible mechanisms of a classic TCM formula, Huanglian Jiedu decoction (HLJDD). First, the herb-compound, compound-protein, protein-pathway, and gene-disease networks were constructed to predict the major therapeutic diseases of HLJDD and explore the underlying molecular mechanisms. Network pharmacology analysis showed the top one predicted disease of HLJDD treatment was cancer, especially hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and inflammation-related genes played an important role in the treatment of HLJDD on cancer. Next, based on the prediction by network pharmacology analysis, both in vitro HCC cell and in vivo orthotopic HCC implantation mouse models were established to validate the curative role of HLJDD. HLJDD exerted its antitumor activity on HCC in vitro, as demonstrated by impaired cell proliferation and colony formation abilities, induced apoptosis and cell cycle arrest, as well as inhibited migratory and invasive properties of HCC cells. The orthotopic HCC implantation mouse model further demonstrated the remarkable antitumour effects of HLJDD on HCC in vivo. In conclusion, our study demonstrated the effectiveness of integrating network pharmacology with experimental study for discovery and identification of the major therapeutic diseases and the underlying molecular mechanisms of TCM.
Keywords: Experimental Validation; Hepatocellular Carcinoma; Huanglian Jiedu Decoction (Coptidis rhizoma, Scutellariae radix, Phellodendri chinensis cortex, Gardeniae fructus); Inflammation; Network Pharmacology.