Lung cancer shows the highest incidence rate in the world. Thus, it has increasingly become an important issue to find the therapeutic drugs to treat lung cancer. Farfarae Flos (FF) has been used in the traditional Chinese medicines (TCMs) in the treatment for the pulmonary diseases such as cough, bronchitis and asthmatic disorders. In this study, the anti-proliferation effect of petroleum extracts of FF (PEFF) against Lewis lung cancer (LLC) cells and the corresponding mechanisms were studied using cell metabolomics. Fifteen differential metabolites in the cell extracts and the corresponding medium related with the anti-proliferation effect of PEFF were identified, which were probably involved with the Pyruvate metabolism and Glycine, serine and threonine metabolism. For the cellular uptake compounds of PEFF, six metabolites derived from two prototype compounds, were also tentatively identified by UHPLC-Q-Orbitrap HRMS. Network pharmacology analysis demonstrated that the anti-proliferation mechanism of PEFF was also probably related to the target genes, including Aurora-A, GSTM1, GSTP1, PGR and HO-1, and further related with the Proteoglycans and PI3K/Akt signaling pathway. Cell metabolomics and network pharmacology analysis provided a holistic method for the investigation of the anti-proliferation mechanisms of PEFF. However, further studies were still needed to validate the potential target genes, pathways and active compounds in PEFF.
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