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The increased adhesion of monocytes to injured endothelial layers is a critical early event in atherogenesis. Under inflammatory conditions, there is increased expression of specific cell adhesion molecules on activated vascular endothelial cells, which increases monocyte adhesion. In our current study, we demonstrate a putative mechanism for the anti-inflammatory effects of carnosol, a diterpene derived from the herb rosemary. Our results show that both carnosol and rosemary essential oils inhibit the adhesion of TNFα-induced monocytes to endothelial cells and suppress the expression of ICAM-1 at the transcriptional level. Moreover, carnosol was found to exert its inhibitory effects by blocking the degradation of the inhibitory protein IκBα in short term pretreatments but not in 12 h pretreatments. Our data show that carnosol reduces IKK-β phosphorylation in pretreatments of less than 3 h. In TNFα-treated ECs, NF-κB nuclear translocation and transcriptional activity was abolished by up to 12 h of carnosol pretreatment and this was blocked by Nrf-2 siRNA. The long-term inhibitory effects of carnosol thus appear to be mediated through its induction of Nrf-2-related genes. The inhibition of ICAM-1 expression and p65 translocation is reversed by HO-1 siRNA. Carnosol also upregulates the Nrf-2-related glutathione synthase gene and thereby increases the GSH levels after 9 h of exposure. Treating ECs with a GSH synthesis inhibitor, BSO, blocks the inhibitory effects of carnosol. In addition, carnosol increases p65 glutathionylation. Hence, our present findings indicate that carnosol suppresses TNFα-induced singling pathways through the inhibition of IKK-β activity or the upregulation of HO-1 expression. The resulting GSH levels are dependent, however, on the length of the carnosol pretreatment period.