Identification of triptolide, a natural diterpenoid compound, as an inhibitor of lung inflammation

Gary W. Hoyle, Christine I. Hoyle, Jing Chen, Weiyuan Chang, Ronald W. Williams, Roy J. Rando


Inflammation is associated with various pulmonary diseases and contributes to the pathogenesis of acute lung injury. We previously identified a proinflammatory signaling pathway triggered by G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) in which stimulation of Gq-coupled GPCRs results in activation of the transcription factor NF-κB. Because damage to the lung causes the release of multiple mediators acting through Gq-coupled GPCRs, this signaling pathway is likely to contribute to inflammatory processes in the injured lung. In an effort to identify novel inhibitors of lung inflammation, the National Institutes of Health Clinical Collection, a library of 446 compounds, was screened for inhibitory activity toward production of IL-8 induced by stimulation of the Gq-coupled tachykinin 1 receptor with substance P in A549 cells. Twenty-eight compounds that significantly inhibited substance P-induced IL-8 production were identified. The most potent inhibitor was triptolide, a diterpenoid compound from Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F, a vine used in traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Triptolide inhibited IL-8 production induced by substance P with an IC50 of 2.3 × 10−8 M and inhibited NF-κB activation in response to an agonist of the protease-activated receptor 2 with an IC50 of 1.4 × 10−8 M. Anti-inflammatory effects of triptolide were assessed in vivo using a chlorine gas lung injury model in mice. Triptolide inhibited neutrophilic inflammation and the production of KC (Cxcl1) in the lungs of chlorine-exposed mice. The results demonstrate that triptolide exhibits anti-inflammatory activity in cultured lung cells and in an in vivo model of acute lung injury.

  • chlorine gas
  • acute lung injury
  • substance P
  • nuclear factor-κB
  • tachykinin 1 receptor
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