Immune system plays a decisive role for defending various pathogenic microorganisms. Astragalus membranaceus (AM) and Panax ginseng (PG) are two tonic herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as immune booster and help to control diseases with their healthy synergistic effect on immune system.
This study was aimed to investigate the promote effect and molecular mechanisms of AM and PG on immune system as booster and to control the target diseases using animal and computational systematic study.
Computational models including absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination (ADME) with weighted ensemble similarity (WES) algorithm-based models and ClueGo network analysis were used to find the potential bioactive compounds targets and pathways, which were responsible for immune regulation. Viscera index analysis, proliferation activity of splenic lymphocytes and cytotoxic activity of NK cells assays were performed to validate the effect of AM and PG on immune system of long-term administrated mice. Metabonomic study of mice plasma was conducted to investigate effect of AM and PG on the endogenous metabolic perturbations, together with correlation analysis.
AM and PG simultaneously showed the ability to strengthen the immune system function including enhancement of spleen and thymus index, proliferation of splenic lymphocytes and cytotoxic activity of NK cells. Besides, the different molecular mechanisms of AM and PG on immune regulation were also investigated by analyzing the potential bioactive compounds, enzymes actions and pathways. Quercetin, formononetin and kaempferol were the main immune-related compounds in AM, while ginsenoside Ra1, ginsenoside Rh1 and kaempferol in PG. About 10 target proteins were found close to immune regulation, including acetylcholinesterase (ACHE, common target in AM and PG), sphingosine kinase 1(SPHK1), cytidine deaminase (CDA), and Choline O-acetyltransferase (CHAT). Glycerophospholipid metabolism was regulated in both AM and PG groups. Pyrimidine metabolism and sphingolipid metabolism were considered as the special pathway in AM groups. Energy metabolism and glycerolipid metabolism were the special pathways in PG groups.
A novel comprehensive molecular mechanism analysis method was established and applied to clarify the scientific connotation of AM and PG as immune regulation, with similar herbal tonic effect provided in clinical practice of TCM, which can provide a new line of research for drug development (immune booster) using AM and PG.