A standardized root extract of Withania somnifera and its major constituent withanolide-A elicit humoral and cell-mediated immune responses by up regulation of Th1-dominant polarization in BALB/c mice

Life Sci. 2007 Mar 27;80(16):1525-38. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2007.01.029. Epub 2007 Jan 25.


The effects of graded doses of a chemically standardized aqueous alcoholic (1:1) root extract (AGB) of Withania somnifera on the immune system of SRBC immunized BALB/c mice were investigated. Mice were administrated AGB orally for 15 days. AGB stimulated cell mediated immunity, IgM and IgG titers reaching peak value with 30 mg/kg b.wt. Flow cytometric analysis of lymphocyte surface markers of T cells (CD3(+), CD4(+) and CD8(+)) and B cells (CD19(+)) indicated prominent enhancement in proliferation and differentiation of lymphocytes. The extract selectively, induced type 1 immunity because it guided enhanced expression of T helper cells (Th)1 cytokines interferon (IFN)-gamma and interleukin (IL)-2 while Th2 cytokine IL-4 observed a moderate decline. Confirmation of Th1 polarization was obtained from augmented levels of IgG2a over IgG1 in the blood sera of AGB treated groups. Withanolide-A, a major constituent of AGB appeared responsible for Th1 skewing effect of the extract as it significantly increased the levels of Th1 cytokines, decreased moderately IL-4 and significantly restored the selective dexamethasone inhibition of Th1 cytokines in mouse splenocytes cultures in vitro. In addition, AGB also strongly activated macrophage functions ex vivo and in vitro indicated by enhanced secretion of nitrite, IL-12 and TNF-alpha. In contrast IL-10 remained unchanged again suggesting that AGB critically influenced Th1 profile of the cytokines. The studies suggested that AGB supports predominantly Th1 immunity with increase in macrophage functions. The standardized root extract of no toxicological consequences might therefore, find useful applications against the intracellular pathogens and in the management of immune suppressed diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibody Formation / drug effects*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood
  • Interferon-gamma / immunology
  • Interleukin-2 / immunology
  • Interleukin-4 / immunology
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Plant Extracts / immunology
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Roots / chemistry*
  • Th1 Cells / drug effects*
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects*
  • Withania*


  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Interleukin-2
  • Plant Extracts
  • Interleukin-4
  • Interferon-gamma