Colchicine: its mechanism of action and efficacy in crystal-induced inflammation

Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2008 Jul;10(3):218-27. doi: 10.1007/s11926-008-0036-3.


New light has been shed on the mechanisms of action of colchicine in crystal-associated arthropathies. Colchicine, long used to treat gout, arrests microtubule assembly and inhibits many cellular functions. At micromolar concentrations, it suppresses monosodium urate crystal-induced NACHT-LRR-PYD-containing protein-3 (NALP3) inflammasome-driven caspase-1 activation, IL-1beta processing and release, and L-selectin expression on neutrophils. At nanomolar concentrations, colchicine blocks the release of a crystal-derived chemotactic factor from neutrophil lysosomes, blocks neutrophil adhesion to endothelium by modulating the distribution of adhesion molecules on the endothelial cells, and inhibits monosodium urate crystal-induced production of superoxide anions from neutrophils. Cyto-chrome P450 3A4, the multidrug transporter P-glycoprotein, and the drugs that bind these proteins influence its pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. Trial evidence supports its efficacy in acute gout and in preventing gout flares, but it has narrow therapeutic index, and overdosage is associated with gastrointestinal, hepatic, renal, neuromuscular, and cerebral toxicity; bone marrow damage; and high mortality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Gouty / drug therapy*
  • Chondrocalcinosis / drug therapy*
  • Colchicine / pharmacology*
  • Colchicine / therapeutic use
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gout Suppressants / pharmacology*
  • Gout Suppressants / therapeutic use
  • Inflammation / drug therapy


  • Gout Suppressants
  • Colchicine