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To determine the effects of triptolide (TP) on the expression of interleukin-18 (IL-18) and its receptor in phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA)-stimulated rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASF).RASF were obtained from the synovial tissue of patients with RA. RASF were pretreated with TP (0˜100 ng/ml) for 2 h before stimulation with PMA (50 ng/ml). The bioactivity of IL-18 in the supernatant was detected based on IFN-γ secretion from IL-18-responding human myelomonocytic KG-1 cells. IL-18 level was analyzed by ELISA. In situ expression of IL-18Rα was determined by immunofluorescence assay. To estimate the protein and mRNA expression of IL-18 and IL-18Rα in RASF, western blot and quantitative RT-PCR were performed. Nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) activity in the whole-cell extract of treated RASF was also measured using an ELISA-based method.TP effectively inhibited the bioactivity of IL-18 in PMA-stimulated RASF. The expression of IL-18 and IL-18R at protein and gene levels was reduced by TP. NF-κB activity in PMA-stimulated RASF was profoundly suppressed by TP. These effects showed a high correlation with TP concentration (0˜100 ng/ml).TP effectively inhibited the expression of IL-18 and its receptor in PMA-stimulated RASF. These results suggest a mechanism of TP in RA therapy.