Objective: Extracts of the Chinese herbal remedy Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (TWHF) have been reported to be effective in the treatment of patients with a variety of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, but the mechanism of this therapeutic effect has not been completely delineated. The present study was designed to assess the effects of TWHF on the in vitro synthesis of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and on the expression of the cyclooxygenase isoforms, COX-1 and COX-2, in various human cell types.
Methods: Monocytes from human peripheral blood (HM), fibroblasts from rheumatoid arthritis synovial tissue (RASF), human neonatal foreskin fibroblasts (HFF), and the histiocytic cell line U937 were cultured for designated time periods with or without lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and in the presence or absence of varying concentrations of the following inhibitors: the methanol/chloroform (T2) extract of TWHF, the ethyl acetate (EA) extract of TWHF, a purified diterpenoid component of TWHF (triptolide), dexamethasone, and indomethacin. Culture supernatants were harvested for PGE2 content assays. Total RNA was extracted from the cells and analyzed for COX-1 and COX-2 messenger RNA (mRNA) expression using reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction or Northern blotting.
Results: Both the T2 and EA extracts inhibited PGE2 synthesis in the LPS-stimulated HM, RASF, and HFF cells, which was reflected by a marked suppression in the levels of mRNA for COX-2. In contrast, neither extract inhibited PGE2 production in U937 cells that did not express COX-2. Triptolide also inhibited LPS-stimulated induction of COX-2 mRNA and synthesis of PGE2, at the same inhibitory concentration as seen with the EA extract. The effects of T2, EA, and triptolide paralleled the inhibitory action of dexamethasone.
Conclusion: The data indicate that both the T2 and EA extracts of TWHF, as well as the triptolide component, inhibit PGE2 production in a variety of human cells by blocking the up-regulation of COX-2.