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Open AccessArticle

Exploration in the Mechanism of Action of Licorice by Network Pharmacology

College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fuzhou 350122, China
College of Chemistry and Materials Science, Fujian Normal University, Fuzhou 350007, China
College of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Xiamen University, Xiamen 361005, China
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Francesca Borrelli, Natasa Milic and Ester Pagano
Molecules 2019, 24(16), 2959;
Received: 29 July 2019 / Revised: 11 August 2019 / Accepted: 13 August 2019 / Published: 15 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Herbal Medicines–Unraveling Their Molecular Mechanism)
PDF [3275 KB, uploaded 15 August 2019]


Licorice is a popular sweetener and a thirst quencher in many food products particularly in Europe and the Middle East and also one of the oldest and most frequently used herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. As a wide application of food additive, it is necessary to clarify bioactive chemical ingredients and the mechanism of action of licorice. In this study, a network pharmacology approach that integrated drug-likeness evaluation, structural similarity analysis, target identification, network analysis, and KEGG pathway analysis was established to elucidate the potential molecular mechanism of licorice. First, we collected and evaluated structural information of 282 compounds in licorice and found 181 compounds that met oral drug rules. Then, structural similarity analysis with known ligands of targets in the ChEMBL database (similarity threshold = 0.8) was applied to the initial target identification, which found 63 compounds in licorice had 86 multi-targets. Further, molecular docking was performed to study their binding modes and interactions, which screened out 49 targets. Finally, 17 enriched KEGG pathways (p < 0.01) of licorice were obtained, exhibiting a variety of biological activities. Overall, this study provided a feasible and accurate approach to explore the safe and effective application of licorice as a food additive and herb medicine. View Full-Text
Keywords: licorice; food additive; network analysis; target identification; KEGG pathway analysis licorice; food additive; network analysis; target identification; KEGG pathway analysis

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Chen, M.; Zhu, J.; Kang, J.; Lai, X.; Gao, Y.; Gan, H.; Yang, F. Exploration in the Mechanism of Action of Licorice by Network Pharmacology. Molecules 2019, 24, 2959.

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