Standard therapy for asthma, a highly heterogeneous disease, is primarily based on bronchodilators and immunosuppressive drugs, which confer short-term symptomatic relief but not a cure. It is difficult to discover novel bronchodilators, although potential new targets are emerging. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) formulas have been used to treat asthma for more than 2000 years, forming the basis for representative asthma treatments.
Based on the efficacy of TCM formulas, anti-asthmatic herbal compounds bind proteins are potential targets for asthma therapy. This analysis will provide new drug targets and discovery strategies for asthma therapy.
A list of candidate herbs for asthma was selected from the classical formulas (CFs) of TCM for the treatment of wheezing or dyspnea recorded in Treatise on Cold Damage and Miscellaneous Diseases (TCDMD) and from modern herbal formulas identified in the SAPHRON TCM Database using the keywords “wheezing” or “dyspnea”. Compounds in the selected herbs and compounds that directly bind target proteins were acquired by searching the Herbal Ingredients’ Targets Database (HITD), TCM Data Bank (TCMDB) and TCM Integrated Database (TCMID). Therapeutic targets of conventional medicine (CM) for asthma were collected by searching Therapeutic Target Database (TTD), DrugBank and PubMed as supplements. Finally, the enriched gene ontology (GO) terms of the targets were obtained using the Database for Annotation Visualization and Integrated Discovery (DAVID) and protein-protein interactions (PPI) networks were constructed using Search Tool for the Retrieval of Interacting Genes/Proteins (STRING). The effects of two selected TCM compounds, kaempferol and ginkgolide A, on cellular resistance in human airway smooth muscle cells (ASMCs) and pulmonary resistance in a mouse model were investigated.
The list of 32 candidate herbs for asthma was selected from 10 CFs for the treatment of wheezing or dyspnea recorded in TCDMD and 1037 modern herbal formulas obtained from the SAPHRON TCM Database. A total of 130 compounds from the 32 selected herbs and 68 herbal compounds directly bind target proteins were acquired from HITD and TCMDB. Eighty-eight therapeutic targets of CM for asthma were collected by searching TTD and PubMed as supplements. DAVID and STRING analyses showed targets of TCM formulas are primarily related to cytochrome P450 (CYP) family, transient receptor potential (TRP) channels, matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and ribosomal protein. Both TCM formulas and CM act on the same types of targets or signaling pathways, such as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), steroid hormone receptors (SHRs), and JAK-STAT signaling pathway. The proteins directly targeted by herbal compounds, TRPM8, TRPA1, TRPV3, CYP1B1, CYP2B6, CYP1A2, CYP3A4, CYP1A1, PPARA, PPARD, NR1I2, MMP1, MMP2, ESR1, ESR2, RPLP0, RPLP1 and RPLP2, are potential targets for asthma therapy. In vitro results showed kaempferol (1 × 10 mM) and ginkgolide A (1 × 10 mM) significantly increased the cell index (P < 0.05 vs. histamine, n = 3) and therefore relaxed human ASMCs. In vivo results showed kaempferol (145 μg/kg) and ginkgolide A (205 μg/kg) significantly reduced pulmonary resistance (P < 0.05 vs. methacholine, n = 6).
Potential target discovery for asthma treatment based on the clinical effectiveness of TCM is a feasible strategy.

Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.