Honokiol (HNK) is a phenolic compound isolated from the bark of houpu (Magnolia officinalis), a plant widely used in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine. While substantial evidence indicates that HNK possesses anti-inflammatory activity, its effect on dendritic cells (DCs) during the inflammatory reaction remains unclear. The present study investigates how HNK affects lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated human monocyte-derived DCs. Our experimental results show that HNK inhibits the inflammatory response of LPS-induced DCs by (1) suppressing the expression of CD11c, CD40, CD80, CD83, CD86, and MHC-II on LPS-activated DCs, (2) reducing the production of TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-12p70 but increasing the production of IL-10 and TGF-β1 by LPS-activated DCs, (3) inhibiting the LPS-induced DC-elicited allogeneic T-cell proliferation, and (4) shifting the LPS-induced DC-driven Th1 response toward a Th2 response. Further, our results show that HNK inhibits the phosphorylation levels of ERK1/2, p38, JNK1/2, IKKα, and IκBα in LPS-activated DCs. Collectively, the findings show that the anti-inflammatory actions of HNK on LPS-induced DCs are associated with the NF-κB and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathways.
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