The rapidly increasing diabetes mellitus (DM) is becoming a major global public health issue. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has a long history of the treatment of DM with good efficacy. Huangqi and Huanglian are one of the most frequently prescribed herbs for DM, and the combination of them occurs frequently in antidiabetic formulae. However, the synergistic mechanism of Huangqi (Radix Astragali) and Huanglian (Rhizoma Coptidis) has not been clearly elucidated. To address this problem, a feasible system pharmacology model based on chemical, pharmacokinetic and pharmacological data was developed via network construction approach to clarify the synergistic mechanisms of these two herbs. Forty-three active ingredients of Huangqi (mainly astragalosides and isoflavonoids) and Huanglian (primarily isoquinoline alkaloids) possessing favorable pharmacokinetic profiles and biological activities were selected, interacting with 50 DM-related targets to provide potential synergistic therapeutic actions. Systematic analysis of the constructed networks revealed that these targets such as GLUT2, NOS2, PTP1B, and IGF1R were mainly involved in PI3K-Akt signaling pathway, insulin resistance, insulin signaling pathway, and HIF-1 signaling pathway, and were mainly located in retina, pancreatic islet, smooth muscle, immunity-related organ tissues, and whole blood. The contribution index of every active ingredient also indicated five compounds, including berberine (BBR), astragaloside IV (AIV), quercetin, palmatine, and astragalus polysaccharides, as the principal components of this herb combination. These results successfully explained the polypharmcological and synergistic mechanisms underlying the efficiency of Huangqi and Huanglian for the treatment of DM and its complications.
Yue, S. J., Liu, J., Feng, W. W., Zhang, F. L., Chen, J. X., Xin, L. T., … Yan, D. (2017). System pharmacology-based dissection of the synergistic mechanism of huangqi and huanglian for diabetes mellitus. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 8(OCT). https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2017.00694