Ursolic Acid, a Natural Nutraceutical Agent, Targets Caspase3 and Alleviates Inflammation-Associated Downstream Signal Transduction

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Ursolic acid (UA) is a pentacyclicterpenoid carboxylic acid that is present in a wide variety of plant foods. There are many beneficial health effects that are attributed to the properties of UA. However, the specific cellular targets of UA and the mechanism underlying downstream signal transduction processes linked to the anti-inflammation pathway have not been thoroughly elucidated to date.

Methods and results

Chemical biology strategies such as target fishing, click reaction synthesis of a UA probe and molecular imaging were used to identify potential target proteins of UA. Cysteinyl aspartate specific proteinase 3 (CASP3) and its downstream signaling pathway were verified as potential targets by molecular docking, intracellular enzyme activity evaluation and accurate pathway analysis. The results indicated that UA acted on CASP3, ERK1 and JNK2 targets, alleviated inflammation-associated downstream multiple signal transduction factors, including ERK1, NF-κB and STAT3, and exhibited anti-inflammation activities.


As a natural dietary supplement, UA demonstrated anti-inflammation activity via inhibition of CASP3 and shows the potential to improve the therapy effect of several inflammation-associated diseases.

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