Colchicine--Update on mechanisms of action and therapeutic uses

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2015 Dec;45(3):341-50. doi: 10.1016/j.semarthrit.2015.06.013. Epub 2015 Jun 26.


Objectives: To review the literature and provide an update on the mechanisms of action and therapeutic uses of oral colchicine in arthritis and inflammatory conditions.

Methods: We performed PubMed database searches through June 2014 for relevant studies in the English literature published since the last update of colchicine in 2008. Searches encompassed colchicine mechanisms of action and clinical applications in medical conditions. A total of 381 articles were reviewed.

Results: The primary mechanism of action of colchicine is tubulin disruption. This leads to subsequent down regulation of multiple inflammatory pathways and modulation of innate immunity. Newly described mechanisms include various inhibitory effects on macrophages including the inhibition of the NACHT-LRRPYD-containing protein 3 (NALP3) inflammasome, inhibition of pore formation activated by purinergic receptors P2X7 and P2X2, and stimulation of dendritic cell maturation and antigen presentation. Colchicine also has anti-fibrotic activities and various effects on endothelial function. The therapeutic use of colchicine has extended beyond gouty arthritis and familial Mediterranean fever, to osteoarthritis, pericarditis, and atherosclerosis.

Conclusion: Further understanding of the mechanisms of action underlying the therapeutic efficacy of colchicine will lead to its potential use in a variety of conditions.

Keywords: Colchicines; Inflammation; Mechanism of action; Pharmacokinetics; Therapeutic use.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Gouty / drug therapy
  • Arthritis, Gouty / metabolism
  • Colchicine / therapeutic use*
  • Gout / drug therapy*
  • Gout / metabolism
  • Gout Suppressants / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Tubulin / metabolism*


  • Gout Suppressants
  • Tubulin
  • Colchicine