NYMC Faculty Publications

Systems Pharmacology and In Silico Docking Analysis Uncover Association of CA2, PPARG, RXRA, and VDR with the Mechanisms Underlying the Shi Zhen Tea Formula Effect on Eczema

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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology


Eczema is a complex chronic inflammatory skin disease impacted by environmental factors, infections, immune disorders, and deficiencies in skin barrier function. Shi Zhen Tea (SZT), derived from traditional Chinese medicine Xiao-Feng-San, has shown to be an effective integrative therapy for treating skin lesions, itching, and sleeping loss, and it facilitates reduction of topical steroid and antihistamine use in pediatric and adult patients with severe eczema. Yet, its active compounds and therapeutic mechanisms have not been elucidated. In this study, we sought to investigate the active compounds and molecular mechanisms of SZT in treating eczema using systems pharmacology and in silico docking analysis. SZT is composed of 4 medicinal herbs, Baizhu (Atractylodis macrocephalae rhizome), Jingjie (Schizonepetae herba), Kushen (Sophorae flavescentis radix), and Niubangzi (Arctii fructus). We first identified 51 active compounds from SZT and their 81 potential molecular targets by high-throughput computational analysis, from which we identified 4 major pathways including Th17 cell differentiation, metabolic pathways, pathways in cancer, and the PI3K-Akt signaling pathway. Through network analysis of the compound-target pathway, we identified hub molecular targets within these pathways including carbonic anhydrase II (CA2), peroxisome proliferator activated receptor γ (PPAR γ), retinoid X receptor α (RXRA), and vitamin D receptor (VDR). We further identified top 5 compounds including cynarine, stigmasterin, kushenol, β-sitosterol, and (24S)-24-propylcholesta-5-ene-3β-ol as putative key active compounds on the basis of their molecular docking scores with identified hub target proteins. Our study provides an insight into the therapeutic mechanism underlying multiscale benefits of SZT for eczema and paves the way for developing new and potentially more effective eczema therapies.