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Identifying targets of herbs is a primary step for investigating pharmacological mechanisms of herbal drugs in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Experimental targets identification of herbs is a difficult and time-consuming work. Computational method for identifying herb targets is an efficient approach. However, how to make full use of heterogeneous network data about herbs and targets to improve the performance of herb targets prediction is still a dilemma.
In our study, a random walk algorithm on the heterogeneous herb-target network (named heNetRW) has been proposed to identify protein targets of herbs. By building a heterogeneous herb-target network involving herbs, targets and their interactions and simulating random walk algorithm on the network, the candidate targets of the given herb can be predicted.
The experimental results on large-scale dataset showed that heNetRW had higher performance of targets prediction than PRINCE (improved F1-score by 0.08 and Hit@1 by 21.34% in one validation setting, and improved F1-score by 0.54 and Hit@1 by 69.08% in the other validation setting). Furthermore, we evaluated novel candidate targets of two herbs (rhizoma coptidis and turmeric), which showed our approach could generate potential targets that are valuable for further experimental investigations.
Compared with PRINCE algorithm, heNetRW algorithm can fuse more known information (such as, known herb-target associations and pathway-based similarities of protein pairs) to improve prediction performance. Experimental results also indicated heNetRW had higher performance than PRINCE. The prediction results not only can be used to guide the selection of candidate targets of herbs, but also help to reveal the molecule mechanisms of herbal drugs.