High mobility group box 1 protein (HMGB1), a potent pro-inflammatory cytokine, contributes to the pathogenesis of diverse inflammatory and infectious disorders. Some studies have illustrated the potential effect of HMGB1 on regulatory T cells (Tregs). Astragaloside IV (AST IV) isolated from a Chinese herb, Astragalus mongholicus, is known to have a variety of immunomodulatory activities. However, it is not yet clear whether AST IV possesses potential regulatory effect on the pro-inflammatory ability of HMGB1 with subsequent activation of Tregs. This study was carried out to investigate the antagonistic effects of different doses of AST IV on the immune function of Tregs mediated by HMGB1 in vitro. Tregs isolated from the spleens of mice were co-cultured with HMGB1 and/or AST IV. Cell phenotypes of Tregs were analyzed, and the contents of various cytokines in the cell supernatants as a result of co-culture and the proliferation of CD4(+)CD25(-) T cells were determined. Results showed that HMGB1 stimulation resulted in significantly down-regulation of expressions of Tregs cell phenotypes. However, AST IV can rival the suppressing effect of HMGB1 on immune function of Tregs with a dose-dependent in vitro. These results indicate that AST IV has the potential therapeutic action on inflammation augmented by HMGB1.
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