Immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects of chondroitin sulphate

J Cell Mol Med. 2009 Aug;13(8A):1451-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1582-4934.2009.00826.x. Epub 2009 Jun 11.


Chondroitin sulphate (CS) is a natural glycosaminoglycan present in the extracellular matrix and is formed by the 1-3 linkage of D-glucuronic acid to N-acetylgalactosamine. In chondrocytes, CS diminishes interleukin-1 beta(IL-1beta)-induced increases in p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38MAPK) and signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (Erk1/2) phosphorylation, and decreases nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) nuclear translocation and as a consequence, reduces the formation of pro-inflammatory cytokines, IL-1beta and TNF-alpha, and pro-inflammatory enzymes, such as phospholipase A2 (PLA2), cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) and nitric oxide synthase-2 (NOS-2). The mechanism of action of CS explains its beneficial effect on the cartilage, synovial membrane and subchondral bone. On the other hand, in vivo, CS given orally prevents hepatic NF-kappaB nuclear translocation, suggesting that systemic CS may elicit an anti-inflammatory effect in many tissues besides the articulation. There is preliminary evidence showing that in human beings, CS may be of benefit in other diseases where inflammation is an essential marker, such as psoriasis and atherosclerosis. The review of the literature suggest that CS might also be of interest for the treatment of other diseases with an inflammatory and/or autoimmune character, such as inflammatory bowel disease, degenerative diseases of the central nervous system and stroke, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Chondroitin Sulfates / chemistry
  • Chondroitin Sulfates / pharmacology*
  • Chondroitin Sulfates / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / pharmacology*
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Chondroitin Sulfates