Insights into the antineoplastic mechanism of Chelidonium majus via systems pharmacology approach

  • Xinzhe Xiao
  • Zehui Chen
  • Zengrui Wu
  • Tianduanyi Wang
  • Weihua Li
  • Guixia Liu
  • Bo ZhangEmail author
  • Yun TangEmail author
Research Article



The antineoplastic activity of Chelidonium majus has been reported, but its mechanism of action (MoA) is unsuspected. The emerging theory of systems pharmacology may be a useful approach to analyze the complicated MoA of this multi-ingredient traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).


We collected the ingredients and related compound-target interactions of C. majus from several databases. The bSDTNBI (balanced substructure-drug-target network-based inference) method was applied to predict each ingredient’s targets. Pathway enrichment analysis was subsequently conducted to illustrate the potential MoA, and prognostic genes were identified to predict the certain types of cancers that C. majus might be beneficial in treatment. Bioassays and literature survey were used to validate the in silico results.


Systems pharmacology analysis demonstrated that C. majus exerted experimental or putative interactions with 18 cancer-associated pathways, and might specifically act on 13 types of cancers. Chelidonine, sanguinarine, chelerythrine, berberine, and coptisine, which are the predominant components of C. majus, may suppress the cancer genes by regulating cell cycle, inducing cell apoptosis and inhibiting proliferation.


The antineoplastic MoA of C. majus was investigated by systems pharmacology approach. C. majus exhibited promising pharmacological effect against cancer, and may consequently be useful material in further drug development. The alkaloids are the key components in C. majus that exhibit anticancer activity.


systems pharmacology mechanism of action traditional Chinese medicine Chelidonium majus 



This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (No. 2016YFA0502304), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 81673356 and U1603122) and the 111 Project (No. B07023).

Supplementary material

40484_2019_165_MOESM1_ESM.jpg (220 kb)
Supplementary material, approximately 220 KB.


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Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xinzhe Xiao
    • 1
  • Zehui Chen
    • 2
  • Zengrui Wu
    • 1
  • Tianduanyi Wang
    • 1
  • Weihua Li
    • 1
  • Guixia Liu
    • 1
  • Bo Zhang
    • 2
    Email author
  • Yun Tang
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Shanghai Key Laboratory of New Drug Design, School of PharmacyEast China University of Science and TechnologyShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Xinjiang Phytomedicine Resource and UtilizationMinistry of Education, Shihezi UniversityShiheziChina

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