Pharmacological effects of mitraphylline from Uncaria tomentosa in primary human monocytes: Skew toward M2 macrophages

J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Jul 21;170:128-35. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2015.05.002. Epub 2015 May 11.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Uncaria tomentosa (Willdenow ex Roemer & Schultes) DC. (Rubiaceae) is a Peruvian thorny liana, commonly known as "cat׳s claw", and traditionally used in folk medicine to deal with several inflammatory diseases. Mitraphylline (MTP) is the most abundant pentacyclic oxindolic alkaloid (POA) from U. Tomentosa and has been reported to modify the inflammatory response. Herein, we have sought to identify the mechanisms underlying this modulatory effect of MTP on primary human monocytes and its ability to regulate differentiation processes on human primary monocyte and monocyte-derived macrophages.

Material and methods: In vitro studies with human primary monocytes and monocyte-derived macrophages were performed. Monocytes and M0 macrophages were exposed to MTP (25μM) and LPS (100ng/mL). M0 macrophages were polarized to M1 and M2 phenotypes in the absence or presence of MTP. The activation state of monocytes/macrophages was assessed by flow cytometry, gene expression and protein analysis of different specific markers.

Results: In human primary monocytes, the incubation of MTP for 24h reduced the number of classical (CD14(++)CD16(-)) and intermediate (CD14(++)CD16(+)) subsets when compared to untreated or LPS-treated cells. MTP also reduced the chemotactic capacity of human primary monocytes. In addition, MTP promoted the polarization of M0 macrophages toward an anti-inflammatory M2 phenotype, the abrogation of the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNFα, IL-6 or IL-1β, as well as the restoration of markers for M2 macrophages in LPS-treated M1 macrophages.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that MTP may be a key modulator for regulating the plasticity of monocytes/macrophages and the attenuation of the inflammatory response.

Keywords: Macrophages; Mitraphylline (Pubchem CID: 94160); Monocytes; Polarization and inflammatory diseases; Uncaria tomentosa; mitraphylline.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cat's Claw / chemistry*
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Chemotaxis / drug effects
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Indole Alkaloids / isolation & purification
  • Indole Alkaloids / pharmacology*
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Lipopolysaccharides / toxicity
  • Macrophages / cytology
  • Macrophages / drug effects*
  • Monocytes / cytology
  • Monocytes / drug effects*
  • Oxindoles


  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines
  • Indole Alkaloids
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Oxindoles
  • mitraphylline