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This article is part of the supplement: Selected articles from the Third International Symposium on Optimization and Systems Biology

Open Access Proceedings

Inhibition of the interactions between eosinophil cationic protein and airway epithelial cells by traditional Chinese herbs

Hao-Teng Chang12*, Louis J Tseng13, Ta-Jen Hung4, Blacky T Kao15, Wei-Yong Lin6, Tan-chi Fan4, Margaret Dah-Tsyr Chang4 and Tun-Wen Pai7

Author Affiliations

1 Graduate Institute of Molecular Systems Biomedicine, China Medical University. Taichung, 40402, Taiwan

2 Graduate Institute of Clinical Medical Science, China Medical University. Taichung, 40402, Taiwan

3 School of Pharmacology, China Medical University. Taichung, 40402, Taiwan

4 Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology & Department of Life Science, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, 30013, Taiwan

5 Department of Biological Science and Technology, China Medical University. Taichung, 40402, Taiwan

6 Graduate Institute of Integrated Medicine, China Medical University. Taichung, 40402, Taiwan

7 Department of Computer Science and Engineering, National Taiwan Ocean University, Keelung, 20224, Taiwan

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BMC Systems Biology 2010, 4(Suppl 2):S8  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-4-S2-S8

Published: 13 September 2010



The eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) is cytotoxic to bacteria, viruses, parasites and mammalian cells. Cells are damaged via processes of pore formation, permeability alteration and membrane leaking. Some clinical studies indicate that ECP gathers in the bronchial tract of asthma sufferers, damages bronchial and airway epithelial cells, and leads to in breathing tract inflammation; therefore, prevention of the cytotoxicity caused by ECP may serve as an approach to treat airway inflammation. To achieve the purpose, reduction of the ECP-cell interactions is rational. In this work, the Chinese herbal combinative network was generated to predict and identify the functional herbs from the pools of prescriptions. It was useful to select the node herbs and to demonstrate the relative binding ability between ECP and Beas-2B cells with or withour herb treatments.


Eighty three Chinese herbs and prescriptions were tested and five effective herbs and six prescription candidates were selected. On the basis of effective single-herbal drugs and prescriptions, a combinative network was generated. We found that a single herb, Gan-cao, served as a node connecting five prescriptions. In addition, Sheng-di-huang, Dang-guei and Mu-tong also appeared in five, four and three kinds of prescriptions, respectively. The extracts of these three herbs indeed effectively inhibited the interactions between ECP and Beas-2B cells. According to the Chinese herbal combinative network, eight of the effective herbal extracts showed inhibitory effects for ECP internalizing into Beas-2B cells. The major components of Gang-cao and Sheng-di-huang, glycyrrhizic acid and verbascose, respectively, reduced the binding affinity between ECP and cells effectively.


Since these Chinese herbs reduced the binding affinity between ECP and cells and inhibited subsequent ECP entrance into cells, they were potential for mitigating the airway inflammation symptoms. Additionally, we mentioned a new concept to study the Chinese herbs using combinative network in the field of systems biology. The functional single herbs could be identified from the set of prescriptions.