Licochalcone A activates Keap1-Nrf2 signaling to suppress arthritis via phosphorylation of p62 at serine 349
Licochalcone A (LCA) is derived from glycyrrhizae radix with antimicrobial, antitumor and anti-inflammatory activities. However, the anti-arthritic function of LCA and underlying mechanism has not been yet explored. The current study investigated the anti-arthritic effect of LCA and elucidated the underlying mechanism. The results showed that LCA significantly suppressed arthritis via the activation of SQSTM1 (p62)/nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) signaling in the collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) model of DBA mice. In coincided with the results, this anti-arthritic effect of LCA was remarkably diminished in the collagen antibody-induced arthritis (CAIA) model of Nrf2-/- mice. These findings indicate that p62/Nrf2 signaling is a crucial pathway for the induction and treatment of arthritis. To further validate the effect of LCA on the arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASFs) isolated from the synovium of RA patients were employed in the study. In coincided with in vivo results, LCA inhibited the cell proliferation and arrested the cell cycle, induced apoptosis, suppressed pro-inflammatory cytokine secretion and increased expression of antioxidant enzymes via the activation of Keap1-Nrf2 signaling by enhancing p62 phosphorylation and expression, Nrf2 accumulation and Nrf2 nucleus translocation. Findings in the current study provide evidence that p62-Keap1-Nrf2 axis is a pivotal signaling pathway in development of arthritis and therapeutic efficacy of drugs, and LCA activates of Keap1-Nrf2 signaling to suppress arthritis by phosphorylation of p62 at Ser349. Collectively, LCA is valuable to be further investigated as a lead compound for application in anti-arthritis, and interference with the interaction between Nrf2 and Keap1 by phosphorylation of p62 may be a promising strategy for the discovery of anti-arthritic agents.