Boswellic acids activate p42(MAPK) and p38 MAPK and stimulate Ca(2+) mobilization

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2002 Jan 11;290(1):185-90. doi: 10.1006/bbrc.2001.6153.


Here we show that extracts of Boswellia serrata gum resins and its constituents, the boswellic acids (BAs), activate the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) p42(MAPK) and p38 in isolated human polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNL). MAPK activation was rapid and transient with maximal activation after 1-2.5 min of exposure and occurred in a dose-dependent manner. The keto-BAs (11-keto-beta-BA and 3-O-acetyl-11-beta-keto-BA) gave substantial kinase activation at 30 microM, whereas other BAs lacking the 11-keto group were less effective. Moreover, 11-keto-BAs induced rapid and prominent mobilization of free Ca(2+) in PMNL. Inhibitor studies revealed that phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-K) is involved in BA-induced MAPK activation, whereas a minor role was apparent for protein kinase C. MAPK activation by 3-O-acetyl-11-beta-keto-BA was partially inhibited when Ca(2+) was removed by chelation. Our results suggest that 11-keto-BAs might function as potent activators of PMNL by stimulation of MAPK and mobilization of intracellular Ca(2+).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blotting, Western
  • Boswellia / metabolism
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium / pharmacology
  • Chelating Agents / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Humans
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1 / metabolism*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Models, Chemical
  • Neutrophils / enzymology
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Protein Kinase C / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • Triterpenes / metabolism*
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases


  • Chelating Agents
  • Triterpenes
  • boswellic acid
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Protein Kinase C
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Calcium