Magnolol as STAT3 inhibitor for treating multiple sclerosis by restricting Th17 cells

Phytomedicine. 2023 Aug:117:154917. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2023.154917. Epub 2023 Jun 3.


Objective: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an immune disease in the central nervous system (CNS) associated with Th17 cells. Moreover, STAT3 initiates Th17 cell differentiation and IL-17A expression through facilitating RORγt in MS. Here, we reported that magnolol, isolated from Magnolia officinalis Rehd. Et Wils, was regarded as a candidate for MS treatment verified by both in vitro and in vivo studies.

Methods: In vivo, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) model in mice was employed to evaluate the alleviation of magnolol on myeloencephalitis. In vitro, FACS assay was employed to evaluate the effect of magnolol on Th17 and Treg cell differentiation and IL-17A expression; network pharmacology-based study was applied to probe the involved mechanisms; western blotting, immunocytochemistry, and luciferase reporter assay was used to further confirm the regulation of magnolol on JAK/STATs signaling pathway; surface plasmon resonance (SPR) assay and molecular docking were applied to manifest affinity with STAT3 and binding sites; overexpression of STAT3 was employed to verify whether magnolol attenuates IL-17A through STAT3 signaling pathway.

Results: In vivo, magnolol alleviated loss of body weight and severity of EAE mice; magnolol improved lesions in spinal cords and attenuated CD45 infiltration, and serum cytokines levels; correspondingly, magnolol focused on inhibiting Th17 differentiation and IL-17A expression in splenocyte of EAE mice; moreover, magnolol selectively inhibited p-STAT3(Y705) and p-STAT4(Y693) of both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in splenocyte of EAE mice. In vitro, magnolol selectively inhibited Th17 differentiation and IL-17A expression without impact on Treg cells; network pharmacology-based study revealed that magnolol perhaps diminished Th17 cell differentiation through regulating STAT family members; western blotting further confirmed that magnolol inhibited p-JAK2(Y1007) and selectively antagonized p-STAT3(Y705) and slightly decreased p-STAT4(Y693); magnolol antagonized both STAT3 nucleus location and transcription activity; magnolol had a high affinity with STAT3 and the specific binding site perhaps to be at SH2 domain; overexpression of STAT3 resulted in failed inhibition of magnolol on IL-17A.

Conclusion: Magnolol selectively inhibited Th17 differentiation and cytokine expression through selectively blocking of STAT3 resulting in decreased the ratio of Th17/Treg cells for treating MS, suggesting that the potential of magnolol for treating MS as novel STAT3 inhibitor.

Keywords: Magnolol; Multiple sclerosis (MS); Rorγt; Signal transducer and activators of transcription 3 (stat3); Th17.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental* / drug therapy
  • Interleukin-17 / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / drug therapy
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Th1 Cells
  • Th17 Cells


  • Interleukin-17
  • magnolol
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor
  • Cytokines