Integration of the Connectivity Map and Pathway Analysis to Predict Plant Extract’s Medicinal Properties—The Study Case of Sarcopoterium spinosum L.

Valid Gahramanov, Moria Oz, Tzemach Aouizerat, Tovit Rosenzweig, Jonathan Gorelick, Elyashiv Drori, Mali Salmon-Divon, Michael Y. Sherman, Bat Chen R. Lubin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Medicinal properties of plants are usually identified based on knowledge of traditional medicine or using low-throughput screens for specific pharmacological activities. The former is very biased since it requires prior knowledge of plants’ properties, while the latter depends on a specific screening system and will miss medicinal activities not covered by the screen. We sought to enrich our understanding of the biological activities of Sarcopoterium spinosum L. root extract based on transcriptome changes to uncover a plurality of possible pharmacological effects without the need for prior knowledge or functional screening. We integrated Gene Set Enrichment Analysis of the RNAseq data to identify pathways affected by the treatment of cells with the extract and perturbational signatures in the CMAP database to enhance the validity of the results. Activities of signaling pathways were measured using immunoblotting with phospho-specific antibodies. Mitochondrial membrane potential was assessed using JC-1 staining. SARS-CoV-2-induced cell killing was assessed in Vero E6 and A549 cells using an MTT assay. Here, we identified transcriptome changes following exposure of cultured cells to the medicinal plant Sarcopoterium spinosum L. root extract. By integrating algorithms of GSEA and CMAP, we confirmed known anti-cancer activities of the extract and predicted novel biological effects on oxidative phosphorylation and interferon pathways. Experimental validation of these pathways uncovered strong activation of autophagy, including mitophagy, and excellent protection from SARS-CoV-2 infection. Our study shows that gene expression analysis alone is insufficient for predicting biological effects since some of the changes reflect compensatory effects, and additional biochemical tests provide necessary corrections. This study defines the advantages and limitations of transcriptome analysis in predicting the biological and medicinal effects of the Sarcopoterium spinosum L. extract. Such analysis could be used as a general approach for predicting the medicinal properties of plants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2195
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • RNA sequencing
  • SARS-COV-2
  • autophagy
  • plant medicine
  • signaling pathway


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