Theaflavin, a black tea extract, is a novel anti-inflammatory compound

Crit Care Med. 2004 Oct;32(10):2097-103. doi: 10.1097/01.ccm.0000142661.73633.15.


Objective: Tea has been around for centuries, and its medicinal properties have been purported in the literature but never fully confirmed. Interleukin-8 is a principle neutrophil chemoattractant and activator in humans. We determined the effects of theaflavin, a black tea-derived polyphenol, on tumor necrosis factor-alpha-mediated expression of the interleukin-8 gene in A549 cells.

Design: Prospective laboratory study.

Setting: University laboratory.

Subjects: A549 cells.

Interventions: A549 cells were exposed to varying concentrations of theaflavin and analyzed for tumor necrosis factor-alpha-mediated interleukin-8 gene expression.

Measurements and main results: Theaflavin inhibited tumor necrosis factor-alpha-mediated interleukin-8 gene expression, as measured by luciferase assay and Northern blot analysis, at concentrations of 10 and 30 microg/mL. This effect appears to primarily involve inhibition of interleukin-8 transcription because theaflavin inhibited tumor necrosis factor-alpha-mediated activation of the interleukin-8 promoter in cells transiently transfected with an interleukin-8 promoter-luciferase reporter plasmid. In addition, theaflavin inhibited tumor necrosis factor-alpha-mediated activation of IkappaB kinase and subsequent activation of the IkappaB-alpha/nuclear factor-kappaB pathway. Theaflavin also significantly reduced tumor necrosis factor-alpha-mediated DNA binding of activator protein-1.

Conclusions: We conclude that theaflavin is a potent inhibitor of interleukin-8 gene expression in vitro. The proximal mechanism of this effect involves, in part, inhibition of IkappaB kinase activation and activator protein-1 pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology*
  • Biflavonoids / pharmacology*
  • Catechin / pharmacology*
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-8 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Interleukin-8 / biosynthesis*
  • Interleukin-8 / genetics
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Plant Extracts
  • Replication Protein C
  • Respiratory Mucosa / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Tea
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / drug effects*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Biflavonoids
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Interleukin-8
  • NF-kappa B
  • Plant Extracts
  • Tea
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • theaflavin
  • Catechin
  • Replication Protein C