Withaferin A inhibits iNOS expression and nitric oxide production by Akt inactivation and down-regulating LPS-induced activity of NF-κB in RAW 264.7 cells

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Induction of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) expression and nitric oxide (NO) production is thought to have beneficial immunomodulatory effects in acute and chronic inflammatory disorders. In Raw 264.7 cells stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to mimic inflammation, withaferin A inhibited LPS-induced expression of both iNOS protein and mRNA in a dose-dependent manner. To investigate the mechanism by which withaferin A inhibits iNOS gene expression, we examined activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) and Akt in Raw 264.7 cells. We did not observe any significant changes in the phosphorylation of p38 MAPK in cells treated with LPS alone or LPS plus withaferin A. However, LPS-induced Akt phosphorylation was markedly inhibited by withaferin A, while the phosphorylation of p42/p44 extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERKs) was slightly inhibited by withaferin A treatment. Withaferin A prevented IκB phosphorylation, blocking the subsequent nuclear translocation of nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) and inhibiting its DNA binding activity. LPS-induced p65 phosphorylation, which is mediated by extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and Akt pathways, was attenuated by withaferin A treatment. Moreover, LPS-induced NO production and NF-κB activation were inhibited by SH-6, a specific inhibitor of Akt. Taken together, these results suggest that withaferin A inhibits inflammation through inhibition of NO production and iNOS expression, at least in part, by blocking Akt and subsequently down-regulating NF-κB activity.

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