Network Pharmacology to Uncover the Biological Basis of Spleen Qi Deficiency Syndrome and Herbal Treatment

Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2020 Aug 27:2020:2974268. doi: 10.1155/2020/2974268. eCollection 2020.


Spleen qi deficiency (SQD) syndrome is one of the basic traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) syndromes related to various diseases including chronic inflammation and hypertension and guides the use of many herbal formulae. However, the biological basis of SQD syndrome has not been clearly elucidated due to the lack of appropriate methodologies. Here, we propose a network pharmacology strategy integrating computational, clinical, and experimental investigation to study the biological basis of SQD syndrome. From computational aspects, we used a powerful disease gene prediction algorithm to predict the SQD syndrome biomolecular network which is significantly enriched in biological functions including immune regulation, oxidative stress, and lipid metabolism. From clinical aspects, SQD syndrome is involved in both the local and holistic disorders, that is, the digestive diseases and the whole body's dysfunctions. We, respectively, investigate SQD syndrome-related digestive diseases including chronic gastritis and irritable bowel syndrome and the whole body's dysfunctions such as chronic fatigue syndrome and hypertension. We found innate immune and oxidative stress modules of SQD syndrome biomolecular network dysfunction in chronic gastritis patients and irritable bowel syndrome patients. Lymphocyte modules were downregulated in chronic fatigue syndrome patients and hypertension patients. From experimental aspects, network pharmacology analysis suggested that targets of Radix Astragali and other four herbs commonly used for SQD syndrome are significantly enriched in the SQD syndrome biomolecular network. Experiments further validated that Radix Astragali ingredients promoted immune modules such as macrophage proliferation and lymphocyte proliferation. These findings indicate that the biological basis of SQD syndrome is closely related to insufficient immune response including decreased macrophage activity and reduced lymphocyte proliferation. This study not only demonstrates the potential biological basis of SQD syndrome but also provides a novel strategy for exploring relevant molecular mechanisms of disease-syndrome-herb from the network pharmacology perspective.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chronic Disease
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / genetics
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / immunology
  • Gastritis / genetics
  • Gastritis / immunology
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Hypertension / genetics
  • Hypertension / immunology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / genetics
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / immunology
  • Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Mice
  • Phenotype
  • Protein Interaction Maps / drug effects
  • Qi*
  • RAW 264.7 Cells
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Spleen / drug effects
  • Spleen / immunology
  • Spleen / pathology*
  • Syndrome
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects


  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal