Epigenetics is a phenomenon of heritable changes in the chromatin structure of a genomic region, resulting in a transcriptional silent or active state of the region over cell mitosis. Mounting evidence has demonstrated phenotypic consequence of alternations in the patterns of DNA methylation and histone modifications, two of the well-studied epigenetic mechanisms. The epigenome thus represents an interesting therapeutic target. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a system of therapies that has developed through empiricism for over 2100 years and has remained a popular alternative medicine in some Far East Asian populations. We searched 3294 TCM medicinals (TCMMs) containing 48 491 chemicals for chemicals that interact with the epigenetics-related proteins and found that 29.8% of the TCMMs are epigenome-and miRNA-modulating via, mainly, interactions with Polycomb group and methyl CpG-binding proteins. We analyzed 200 government-approved TCM formulas (TCMFs) and found that a statistically significant proportion (99%) of them are epigenome-and miRNA-interacting. The epigenome and miRNA interactivity of theMonarchmedicinals is found to be most prominent. Histone modifications are heavily exploited by the TCMFs, many of which are tonic. Furthermore, epigenetically, the Assistant medicinals least resemble the Monarch. We quantified the role of epigenetics in TCM prescription and found that epigenome-and miRNA-interaction information alone determined, to an extent of 20%, the clinical application areas of the TCMFs. Our results provide (i) a further support for the notion of the epigenomes as a drug target and (ii) a new set of tools for the design of TCM prescriptions.
EVIDENCE-BASED COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE