Acute pancreatitis (AP) is an inflammatory disorder, involving acinar cell death and the release of inflammatory cytokines. Currently, there are limited effective therapeutic agents for AP. Betulinic acid (BA) is a pentacyclic triterpenoid extracted from Betula platyphylla that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. In this study, we aimed to investigate the effects of BA on AP and elucidate the potential underlying mechanisms. AP was induced in mice through six intraperitoneal injections of cerulein. After the last cerulein injection, the mice were sacrificed. Our results revealed that pre- and post-treatment with BA significantly reduced the severity of pancreatitis, as evidenced by a decrease in histological damage in the pancreas and lung, serum amylase and lipase activity and pancreatic myeloperoxidase activity. Furthermore, BA pretreatment reduced proinflammatory cytokine production, augmentation of chemokines, and infiltration of macrophages and neutrophils in the pancreas of AP mice. In addition, mice that were pretreated with BA showed a reduction in Iκ-Bα degradation and nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) binding activity in the pancreas. Moreover, BA reduced the production of proinflammatory cytokines and NF-κB activation in pancreatic acinar cells (PACs). These findings suggest that BA may have prophylactic and therapeutic effects on AP via inhibition of the NF-κB signaling pathway.
Keywords: acinar cell; acute pancreatitis; betulinic acid; inflammation; nuclear factor-kappa B.