St. John's wort (SJW; Hypericum perforatum L.) is commonly known for its antidepressant properties and was traditionally used to promote wound healing, but its molecular mechanism of action is not known. Here, chemical-genetic profiling in yeast was used to predict the human intracellular targets of an aqueous extract of SJW. SJW source material was authenticated by TLC, digital microscopy, and HPLC and further characterized by colorimetric methods for antioxidant activity, protein content, and total soluble phenolic content. SJW extract contained 1.76 mug/mL hyperforin, 10.14 mug/mL hypericin, and 46.05 mug/mL pseudohypericin. The effect of SJW extract on approximately 5900 barcoded heterozygous diploid deletion strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae was investigated using high-density oligonucleotide microarrays. Seventy-eight yeast genes were identified as sensitive to SJW and were primarily associated with vesicle-mediated transport and signal transduction pathways. Potential human intracellular targets were identified using sequence-based comparisons and included proteins associated with neurological disease and angiogenesis-related pathways. Selected human targets were confirmed by cell-based immunocytochemical assays. The comprehensive and systematic nature of chemical-genetic profiling in yeast makes this technique attractive for elucidating the potential molecular mechanisms of action of botanical medicines and other bioactive dietary plants.
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