Suppression of LPS-induced NF-κB activity in macrophages by the synthetic aurone, (Z)-2-((5-(hydroxymethyl) furan-2-yl) methylene) benzofuran-3(2H)-one

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Suppressing cytokine responses has frequently been shown to have promising therapeutic effects for many chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. However, the severe side effects associated with the long-term use of current treatments, such as allergic reactions and increased risk of stroke, have focused attention towards the targeting of intracellular signaling mechanisms, such as NF-κB, that regulate inflammation. We synthesized a series of non-natural aurone derivatives and investigated their ability to suppress pro-inflammatory signaling in human monocyte (THP-1) and murine macrophage-like (RAW 267.4) cell lines. One of these derivatives, (Z)-2-((5-(hydroxymethyl) furan-2-yl) methylene) benzofuran-3(2H)-one (aurone 1), was found to inhibit LPS-induced secretion of the pro-inflammatory cytokines, tumor-necrosis factor α (TNFα), interleukin 1β (IL-1β), and IL-8 by THP-1 cells. To investigate the mechanism, we probed the effect of aurone 1 on LPS-induced MAPK and NF-κB signaling in both THP-1 and RAW264.7. While aurone 1 pre-treatment had no effect on the phosphorylation of ERK, JNK, or p38 MAPK, it strongly suppressed activation of IKK-β, as indicated by attenuation of Ser176/180 phosphorylation, resulting in decreased phosphorylation of p65 (ser536) as well as phosphorylation (ser32) and degradation of IκBα. Consistent with this, aurone 1 significantly reduced LPS-stimulated nuclear translocation of p65-containing NF-κB transcription factors and expression of an mCherry reporter of TNFα gene transactivation in RAW264.7 cells. Inhibition of TNFα expression at the transcription level was also demonstrated in THP-1 by qRT-PCR. In addition to its effects on cytokine expression, aurone 1 pre-treatment decreased expression of iNOS, a bona fide NF-κB target gene and marker of macrophage M1 polarization, resulting in decreased NO production in RAW264.7 cells. Together, these data indicate that aurone 1 may have the potential to function as a pharmacological agent for the treatment of chronic inflammation disorders.

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