Xanthohumol and related prenylated flavonoids inhibit inflammatory cytokine production in LPS-activated THP-1 monocytes: structure-activity relationships and in silico binding to myeloid differentiation protein-2 (MD-2)

Planta Med. 2010 Oct;76(14):1536-43. doi: 10.1055/s-0029-1241013. Epub 2010 Mar 22.


Xanthohumol (XN) is a prenylated chalcone-type flavonoid found in hops and beer. Our objective of this study was to determine the anti-inflammatory activities of XN, isoxanthohumol (IX), and 15 related prenylated chalcones and flavanones, as well as their structure-activity relationships. The anti-inflammatory activities of the flavonoids were measured by their ability to inhibit lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced cytokine production in human monocytic THP-1 cells. The position, number, and length of the prenyl groups had a marked influence on the inhibitory activity of the prenylfavonoids towards MCP-1 and IL-6 production. The α,β-unsaturated carbonyl moiety present in chalcones such as XN was not an absolute requirement for inhibitory activity, as the saturated XN derivative, tetrahydroxanthohumol (TX), showed inhibitory activity comparable to XN. With the aim to determine the mechanism of the observed anti-inflammatory effects, cellular protein levels of Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) were measured by Western blot 24 h following coexposure of THP-1 cells to LPS and either XN, TX, or IX. Only XN reduced the cellular TLR4 protein content. Therefore, an additional hypothesis was developed for an anti-inflammatory mechanism that involves the TLR4 coreceptor myeloid differentiation protein-2 (MD-2), which provides the actual binding site for LPS. Molecular docking studies showed that the complementarity of prenylated flavonoids with the hydrophobic MD-2 pocket (indicating goodness of fit) directly predicted their relative ability to inhibit MCP-1 and IL-6 production. In conclusion, prenylated flavonoids may suppress LPS-induced TLR4 activation at least partly by interfering with LPS binding to the TLR4 coreceptor MD-2, and XN (but not other prenylflavonoids) exerts an additional anti-inflammatory effect by downregulating the cellular TLR4 protein content.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / isolation & purification
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chemokine CCL2 / biosynthesis
  • Flavonoids / chemistry
  • Flavonoids / isolation & purification
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Humulus / chemistry
  • Interleukin-6 / biosynthesis
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Lymphocyte Antigen 96 / chemistry*
  • Lymphocyte Antigen 96 / metabolism
  • Monocytes / drug effects*
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Prenylation
  • Propiophenones / chemistry
  • Propiophenones / isolation & purification
  • Propiophenones / pharmacology*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • CCL2 protein, human
  • Chemokine CCL2
  • Flavonoids
  • Interleukin-6
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Lymphocyte Antigen 96
  • Propiophenones
  • xanthohumol