Research Paper Volume 14, Issue 21 pp 8783—8804

Multilevel data integration and molecular docking approach to systematically elucidate the underlying pharmacological mechanisms of Er-Zhi-Wan against hepatocellular carcinoma

Shaoyan Zheng1,2, , Botao Pan1, ,

  • 1 Affiliated Foshan Maternity and Child Healthcare Hospital, Southern Medical University, Foshan 528000, P.R. China
  • 2 Traditional Chinese Medicine Department, Affiliated Foshan Maternity and Child Healthcare Hospital, Southern Medical University, Foshan 528000, P.R. China

Received: August 17, 2022       Accepted: October 27, 2022       Published: November 7, 2022
How to Cite

Copyright: © 2022 Zheng and Pan. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


As a multicomponent, multitarget empirical therapy, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been used clinically in Asia for thousands of years. Due to this unique feature, TCM therapy is considered a promising therapeutic strategy for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Er-Zhi-Wan (EZW), a well-known TCM formula containing two herbs, Fructus Ligustri Lucidi (FLL, Nü-Zhen-Zi) and Ecliptae Herba (EH, Mo-Han-Lian), is commonly used in clinical practice to prevent and treat liver diseases. Modern pharmacological studies have shown that both EH and FLL can inhibit HCC proliferation. However, the pharmacological mechanism, potential targets, and clinical value of EZW in inhibiting HCC have not been fully elucidated. We used multilevel databases (Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO), Traditional Chinese Medicine Systems Pharmacology (TCMSP), High-throughput Experiment- and Reference-guided database (HERB), and SwissTargetPrediction) to show that EZW suppresses HCC through 19 active components acting on 66 potential targets. Enrichment analysis revealed that EZW mainly regulates HCC progression through various metabolic pathways, the cell cycle, and cellular senescence. Furthermore, we used The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA)-LIHC database to analyze the expression patterns and clinical characteristics of cellular senescence-related genes and identified CDK1, CDK4, CHEK1, and G6PD as key therapeutic molecular targets in EZW-suppressed HCC. Molecular docking revealed that EZW could exert its anti-HCC effect by binding various active components to the above cellular senescence-related genes and regulating their activities. In conclusion, we systematically revealed the potential pharmacological mechanisms and molecular targets of EZW against HCC based on multilevel data integration and a molecular docking strategy.


HCC: breast cancer; EZW: Er-Zhi-Wan; FLL: Fructus Ligustri Lucidi; EH: Ecliptae Herba; TCM: traditional Chinese medicine; LKYDS: liver-kidney Yin deficiency syndrome; DEGs: differentially expressed genes; GO: Gene Ontology; KEGG: Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes; OS: overall survival; PPI: protein-protein interaction; ROC: receiver operating characteristic; AUC: areas under the curve; FDR: false discovery rate; LASSO: Least absolute shrinkage and selection operator; BP: biological process; CC: cytological component; MF: molecular function; H-AC: herb-active components; TCMSP: Traditional Chinese Medicine System Pharmacology Database; OB: oral bioavailability; DL: drug-likeness; LIHC: Liver hepatocellular carcinoma; TCGA: The Cancer Genome Atlas; GEO: Gene Expression Omnibus; MCODE: Molecular Complex Detection; H-C-T: Herb-Compounds-Targets.