Bioactive proteins and peptides isolated from Chinese medicines with pharmaceutical potential


Some protein pharmaceuticals from Chinese medicine have been developed to treat cardiovascular diseases, genetic diseases, and cancer. Bioactive proteins with various pharmacological properties have been successfully isolated from animals such as Hirudo medicinalis (medicinal leech), Eisenia fetida (earthworm), and Mesobuthus martensii (Chinese scorpion), and from herbal medicines derived from species such as Cordyceps militaris, Ganoderma, Momordica cochinchinensis, Viscum album, Poria cocos, Senna obtusifolia, Panax notoginseng, Smilax glabra, Ginkgo biloba, Dioscorea batatas, and Trichosanthes kirilowii. This article reviews the isolation methods, molecular characteristics, bioactivities, pharmacological properties, and potential uses of bioactive proteins originating from these Chinese medicines.

The therapeutic potential of proteins from Chinese medicine (CM) has not realized without extensive research. Nevertheless, according to a report from BCC Research LLC. in October 2013, the global market for protein pharmaceuticals was predicted to be $136.7 billion in 2013 and to increase to $179.1 billion in 2018, with an average annual growth rate of approximately 5.6% from 2013 to 2018 [1]. Many protein pharmaceuticals are available for treating rheumatoid arthritis, coronary artery thrombosis, multiple sclerosis, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia [2-4].

Quality control of Chinese medicinal herbs is a challenge because the therapeutic effects of medicinal herbs are subject to by different factors, such as geographical constraints, soil mineral content, temperature, and humidity. Moreover, guidelines for quality control are not readily available. The 2002 guidelines of the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products for good agricultural practice does not include a standardization for materials of herbal origin [5]. However, protein or peptide pharmaceuticals derived from CM can be produced through recombinant technology, which can minimize batch-to-batch variations in quality [6]. Additionally, drug delivery systems, such as polyethylene glycol (PEG) and nanocarriers, could promote the clinical efficacy of protein drugs from CM [7,8]
This article aims to review the bioactive proteins and peptides isolated from CM with potential for clinical use.


A variety of databases, including Google Scholar/Google, PubMed, Science direct, CINAHL Plus, Cochrane Library, Global health, ISI Web of Knowledge, Chinese database CNKI, CQVIP, and CJFD, were searched to get the information about protein drugs derived from Chinese medicine with the following key words: “Chinese medicine”, “natural products” together with “protein”, “peptide”, “protein pharmaceuticals”, “peptide pharmaceuticals” or “protein drugs”. Furthermore, information on the website of WHO was also collected. For the bioinformatics information of protein, the protein structure, sequence alignment or both, were obtained from the Molecular Modeling Database (MMDB) and Conserved Domain Database (CDD) on the website of NCBI by searching their scientific names of species and their protein names. All data were further analyzed to obtain the information about the current progress in research on promising protein/peptide drugs isolated from CM . Read More<<

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