What is the MeSH Browser?

Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) is a comprehensive list of controlled vocabulary used to classify and index publications (journal articles and text books) in the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and to facilitate searching. They include descriptor hierarchies, descriptions, sub-headings, and supplementary concept records. Every article, textbook, included in MEDLINE/PubMed is indexed with about 10–15 MeSH terms, and some of these terms are marked with an asterisk to indicate the article's main topics.

The majority of PDB structures have a primary citation associated to it and is listed on the Structure Summary page. The citation usually includes an abstract and related keywords (or MeSH terms). The MeSH terms for the primary citation, specified in PubMed, are automatically mapped to PDB entries and are available for searching the PDB archive.

Note that only PDB structures that are connected to PubMed article and have associated MeSH terms for mapping are included in this browser tree.

Why use the MeSH Browser?

Browsing through the MeSH browser can help identify structures that include the specific MeSH term(s) of interest as a keyword. Using these controlled vocabulary you can identify protein structures (PDB entries) that are related to the a medical subject but may not include the same or related polymers and/or small molecule ligands.

How to use the MeSH Browser?

Users can browse the tree, or type in an a specific MeSH descriptor in the search box at the top of the page and then selecting the MeSH term of interest from the available autocomplete suggestions. Every descriptor also carries a unique alphanumerical ID. A given descriptor may appear at several locations in the hierarchical tree. The tree locations carry systematic labels known as tree numbers, and consequently one descriptor can carry several tree numbers. If specific MeSH IDs are available, they may also typed in the search box.

After locating the MeSH term/descriptor/subgroup of interest in the browser tree, view the number of PDB structures listed in this group (listed in square brackets). Clicking on the numbers listed next to the MeSH term will launch a search for all structures in the PDB that are associated with that term.


A search for structures related to "Diabetes Mellitus" in the PDB can be done as follows:

  • Browse the tree for “Diseases” >> “Endocrine System Diseases” >> “Diabetes Mellitus” OR
  • Type the MeSH term "Diabetes Mellitus" in the top search box and from the options provided select either
    • "Diabetes Mellitus (C18.452.394.750)" - to view structures classified in the sub-group of "Nutritional and Metabolic Disease" or
    • "Diabetes Mellitus (C19.246) - to view structures classified as a subgroup of Endocrine System Diseases
  • Type the MeSH IDs of interest (e.g., C19.246). The corresponding MeSH descriptor and sub-groups (if any) of the MeSH ID listed will show up in the autocomplete suggestions. Select the MeSH term of interest from the listed options.

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Last updated: 6/25/2024