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1.  Acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (AKBA); targeting oral cavity pathogens 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:406.
Boswellic acids mixture of triterpenic acids obtained from the oleo gum resin of Boswellia serrata and known for its effectiveness in the treatment of chronic inflammatory disease including peritumor edema. Boswellic acids have been extensively studied for a number of activities including anti inflammatory, antitumor, immunomodulatory, and inflammatory bowel diseases. The present study describes the antimicrobial activities of boswellic acid molecules against oral cavity pathogens. Acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (AKBA), which exhibited the most potent antibacterial activity, was further evaluated in time kill studies, mutation prevention frequency, postantibiotic effect (PAE) and biofilm susceptibility assay against oral cavity pathogens.
AKBA exhibited an inhibitory effect on all the oral cavity pathogens tested (MIC of 2-4 μg/ml). It exhibited concentration dependent killing of Streptococcus mutans ATCC 25175 up to 8 × MIC and also prevented the emergence of mutants of S.mutans ATCC 25175 at 8× MIC. AKBA demonstrated postantibiotic effect (PAE) of 5.7 ± 0.1 h at 2 × MIC. Furthermore, AKBA inhibited the formation of biofilms generated by S.mutans and Actinomyces viscosus and also reduced the preformed biofilms by these bacteria.
AKBA can be useful compound for the development of antibacterial agent against oral pathogens and it has great potential for use in mouthwash for preventing and treating oral infections.
PMCID: PMC3201914  PMID: 21992439
Streptococcus mutans; Biofilm; PAE; Boswellia serrata
2.  Boswellic Acid Blocks STAT3 Signaling, Proliferation, and Survival of Multiple Myeloma via the Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase SHP-1 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2009;7(1):118-128.
Activation of signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT)-3 factors has been linked with survival, proliferation, chemoresistance and angiogenesis of tumor cells, including human multiple myeloma (MM). Thus agents that can suppress STAT3 activation have potential as cancer therapeutics. In our search for such agents, we identified acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (AKBA), originally isolated from Boswellia serrata. Our results show that AKBA inhibited constitutive STAT3 activation in human MM cells. AKBA suppressed IL-6-induced STAT3 activation, and the inhibition was reversible. The phosphorylation of both Jak 2 and Src, constituents of the STAT3 pathway, was inhibited by AKBA. Interestingly, treatment of cells with pervanadate suppressed AKBA’s effect to inhibit the phosphorylation of STAT3, thus suggesting the involvement of a protein tyrosine phosphatase. We found that AKBA induced Src homology region 2 domain-containing phosphatase 1 (SHP-1), which may account for its role in dephosphorylation of STAT3. Moreover, deletion of SHP-1 gene by SiRNA abolished the ability of AKBA to inhibit STAT3 activation. The inhibition of STAT3 activation by AKBA led to the suppression of gene products involved in proliferation (cyclin D1), survival (Bcl-2, Bcl-xL and Mcl-1), and angiogenesis (VEGF). This affect correlated with the inhibition of proliferation and apoptosis in MM cells. Consistent with these results, overexpression of constitutive active STAT3 significantly reduced the AKBA induced apoptosis. Overall, our results suggest that AKBA is a novel inhibitor of STAT3 activation and has potential in the treatment of cancer.
PMCID: PMC2677182  PMID: 19147543
Acetyl-11-Keto-{beta}-Boswellic Acid; STAT3; c-Src; JAK2; SHP-1; Apoptosis
3.  Boswellic acid exerts antitumor effects in colorectal cancer cells by modulating expression of the let-7 and miR-200 microRNA family 
Carcinogenesis  2012;33(12):2441-2449.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a complex disease with genetic and epigenetic alterations in many key oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. The active principle of a gum resin from Boswellia serrata, 3-acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (AKBA), has recently gained attention as a chemopreventive compound due to its ability to target key oncogenic proteins such as 5-lipoxygenase and nuclear factor-kappaB. AKBA has been shown to inhibit the growth of CRC cells; however, the precise molecular mechanisms underlying its anticancer activities in CRC remain unclear. We hypothesized that boswellic acids may achieve their chemopreventive effects by modulating specific microRNA (miRNA) pathways. We found that AKBA significantly up-regulated expression of the let-7 and miR-200 families in various CRC cell lines. Both let-7 and miR-200 are putative tumor-suppressive miRNAs. AKBA modulated the expression of several downstream targets of the let-7 and miR-200 families, such as CDK6, vimentin and E-cadherin. These data were further strengthened by miRNA knockdown studies, which revealed that inhibition of let-7i facilitated enhanced cancer cell proliferation, migration and invasion. In addition, AKBA also induced similar modulation of the let-7 and miR-200 downstream genes in CRC tumors orthotopically implanted in nude mice. These results indicate that AKBA-induced antitumor effects in CRC occur, at least partly through the up-regulation of specific miRNA pathways. Our data provide novel evidence that anticancer effects of boswellic acids are due in part to their ability to regulate cellular epigenetic machinery and further highlight the promise for this phytochemical in the preventative and therapeutic applications of CRC.
PMCID: PMC3510738  PMID: 22983985
4.  Acetyl-11-keto-β-Boswellic Acid Suppresses Invasion of Pancreatic Cancer Cells Through The Downregulation of CXCR4 Chemokine Receptor Expression 
Ninety percent of cancer-mediated deaths are due to metastasis of the tumor, but the mechanisms controlling metastasis remain poorly understood. Thus, no therapy targeting this process has yet been approved. Chemokines and their receptors are mediators of chronic inflammation and have been linked to the metastasis of numerous cancers. More recently, the CXC chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4) has emerged as a key mediator of tumor metastasis; therefore, identification of inhibitors of this receptor has the potential to abrogate metastasis. In this report, we demonstrate that acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (AKBA), a component of the therapeutic plant Boswellia serrata, can downregulate CXCR4 expression in pancreatic cancer cells. The reduction in CXCR4 induced by this terpenoid was found to be cell-type specific, as its expression was also abrogated in leukemia, myeloma, and breast cancer cell lines. Neither proteasome inhibitors nor lysosomal stabilization could prevent the AKBA-induced reduction in CXCR4 expression, and downregulation occurred at the transcriptional level. Suppression of CXCR4 by AKBA was accompanied by the inhibition of pancreatic cancer cell invasion, which is induced by CXCL12, the ligand for CXCR4. In addition, abrogation of the expression of chemokine receptor by AKBA was found in human pancreatic tissues from orthotopic animal model. AKBA also abolished breast tumor cell invasion, and this effect correlated with the disappearance of both the CXCR4 mRNA and CXCR4 protein. Overall, our results show that AKBA is a novel inhibitor of CXCR4 expression and, thus, has the potential to suppress the invasion and metastasis of cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3082612  PMID: 21448932
CXCR4; CXCL12; AKBA; Metastasis
5.  Boswellic acid induces epigenetic alterations by modulating DNA methylation in colorectal cancer cells 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2012;13(7):542-552.
Accumulating evidence suggests that chemopreventive effects of some dietary polyphenols may in part be mediated by their ability to influence epigenetic mechanisms in cancer cells. Boswellic acids, derived from the plant Boswellia serrata, have long been used for the treatment of various inflammatory diseases due to their potent anti-inflammatory activities. Recent preclinical studies have also suggested that this compound has anti-cancer potential against various malignancies. However, the precise molecular mechanisms underlying their anti-cancer effects remain elusive. Herein, we report that boswellic acids modulate DNA methylation status of several tumor suppressor genes in colorectal cancer (CRC) cells. We treated RKO, SW48 and SW480 CRC cell lines with the active principle present in boswellic acids, acetyl-keto-β-boswellic acid (AKBA). Using genome-wide DNA methylation and gene expression microarray analyses, we discovered that AKBA induced a modest genome-wide demethylation that permitted simultaneous re-activation of the corresponding tumor suppressor genes. The quantitative methylation-specific PCR and RT-PCR validated the gene demethylation and re-expression in several putative tumor suppressor genes including SAMD14 and SMPD3. Furthermore, AKBA inhibited DNMT activity in CRC cells. Taken together, these results lend further support to the growing notion that anti-cancer effect of boswellic acids may in part be due to its ability to demethylate and reactivate methylation-silenced tumor suppressor genes. These results suggest that not only boswellic acid might be a promising epigenetic modulator in the chemoprevention and treatment of CRC, but also provide a rationale for future investigations on the usefulness of such botanicals for epigenetic therapy in other human malignancies.
PMCID: PMC3364790  PMID: 22415137
acetyl-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA); boswellic acid; chemoprevention; colorectal cancer; DNA Methylation; epigenetics
6.  Antistaphylococcal and biofilm inhibitory activities of acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid from Boswellia serrata 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:54.
Boswellic acids are pentacyclic triterpenes, which are produced in plants belonging to the genus Boswellia. Boswellic acids appear in the resin exudates of the plant and it makes up 25-35% of the resin. β-boswellic acid, 11-keto-β-boswellic acid and acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid have been implicated in apoptosis of cancer cells, particularly that of brain tumors and cells affected by leukemia or colon cancer. These molecules are also associated with potent antimicrobial activities. The present study describes the antimicrobial activities of boswellic acid molecules against 112 pathogenic bacterial isolates including ATCC strains. Acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (AKBA), which exhibited the most potent antibacterial activity, was further evaluated in time kill studies, postantibiotic effect (PAE) and biofilm susceptibility assay. The mechanism of action of AKBA was investigated by propidium iodide uptake, leakage of 260 and 280 nm absorbing material assays.
AKBA was found to be the most active compound showing an MIC range of 2-8 μg/ml against the entire gram positive bacterial pathogens tested. It exhibited concentration dependent killing of Staphylococcus aureus ATCC 29213 up to 8 × MIC and also demonstrated postantibiotic effect (PAE) of 4.8 h at 2 × MIC. Furthermore, AKBA inhibited the formation of biofilms generated by S. aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis and also reduced the preformed biofilms by these bacteria. Increased uptake of propidium iodide and leakage of 260 and 280 nm absorbing material by AKBA treated cells of S aureus indicating that the antibacterial mode of action of AKBA probably occurred via disruption of microbial membrane structure.
This study supported the potential use of AKBA in treating S. aureus infections. AKBA can be further exploited to evolve potential lead compounds in the discovery of new anti-Gram-positive and anti-biofilm agents.
PMCID: PMC3066120  PMID: 21406118
7.  Boswellic Acid Suppresses Growth and Metastasis of Human Pancreatic Tumors in an Orthotopic Nude Mouse Model through Modulation of Multiple Targets 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26943.
Pancreatic cancer (PaCa) is one of the most lethal cancers, with an estimated 5-year survival of <5% even when patients are given the best treatment available. In addition, these treatments are often toxic and expensive, thus new agents which are safe, affordable and effective are urgently needed. We describe here the results of our study with acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (AKBA), an agent obtained from an Ayurvedic medicine, gum resin of Boswellia serrata. Whether AKBA has an activity against human PaCa, was examined in in vitro models and in an orthotopic nude mouse model of PaCa. We found that AKBA inhibited the proliferation of four different PaCa cell lines (AsPC-1, PANC-28, and MIA PaCa-2 with K-Ras and p53 mutations, and BxPC-3 with wild-type K-Ras and p53 mutation). These effects correlated with an inhibition of constitutively active NF-κB and suppression of NF-κB regulating gene expression. AKBA also induced apoptosis, and sensitized the cells to apoptotic effects of gemcitabine. In the orthotopic nude mouse model of PaCa, p.o. administration of AKBA alone (100 mg/kg) significantly inhibited the tumor growth; this activity was enhanced by gemcitabine. In addition, AKBA inhibited the metastasis of the PaCa to spleen, liver, and lungs. This correlated with decreases in Ki-67, a biomarker of proliferation, and CD31, a biomarker of microvessel density, in the tumor tissue. AKBA produced significant decreases in the expression of NF-κB regulating genes in the tissues. Immunohistochemical analysis also showed AKBA downregulated the expression of COX-2, MMP-9, CXCR4, and VEGF in the tissues. Overall these results demonstrate that AKBA can suppress the growth and metastasis of human pancreatic tumors in an orthotopic nude mouse model that correlates with modulation of multiple targets.
PMCID: PMC3204996  PMID: 22066019
8.  Betulinic Acid Suppresses STAT3 Activation Pathway Through Induction of Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase SHP-1 in Human Multiple Myeloma Cells 
STAT3 activation has been associated with survival, proliferation and invasion of various human cancers. Whether betulinic acid, a pentacyclic triterpene, can modulates the STAT3 pathway, was investigated in human multiple myeloma (MM) cells. We found that betulinic acid inhibited constitutive activation of STAT3, Src kinase, JAK1 and JAK2. Pervanadate reversed the betulinic acid -induced down regulation of STAT3 activation, suggesting the involvement of a protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP). Furthermore, betulinic acid induced the expression of the PTP SHP-1 and silencing of the SHP-1 gene abolished the ability of betulinic acid to inhibit STAT3 activation and rescues betulinic acid-induced cell death. Betulinic acid also downregulated the expression of STAT3-regulated gene products such as bcl-xL, bcl-2, cyclin D1, and survivin. This correlated with an increase in apoptosis as indicated by an increase in the sub-G1 cell population and an increase in caspase-3–induced PARP cleavage. Consistent with these results, over expression of constitutive active STAT3 significantly reduced the betulinic acid-induced apoptosis. Betulinic acid also enhanced the apoptosis induced by thalidomide (from 10% to 55%) and bortezomib (from 5% to 70%) in MM cells. Overall, our results suggest that betulinic acid down regulates STAT3 activation through upregulation of SHP-1 and this may have potential in sensitization of STAT3 over expressing tumors to chemotherapeutic agents.
PMCID: PMC2877157  PMID: 19937797
Betulinic acid; STAT3; JAK1; JAK2; SHP-1; apoptosis
9.  Urease inhibitory activities of β-boswellic acid derivatives 
Background and the purpose of the study
Boswellia carterii have been used in traditional medicine for many years for management different gastrointestinal disorders. In this study, we wish to report urease inhibitory activity of four isolated compound of boswellic acid derivative.
4 pentacyclic triterpenoid acids were isolated from Boswellia carterii and identified by NMR and Mass spectroscopic analysis (compounds 1, 3-O-acetyl-9,11-dehydro-β-boswellic acid; 2, 3-O-acetyl-11-hydroxy-β-boswellic acid; 3. 3-O- acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid and 4, 11-keto-β-boswellic acid. Their inhibitory activity on Jack bean urease were evaluated. Docking and pharmacophore analysis using AutoDock 4.2 and Ligandscout 3.03 programs were also performed to explain possible mechanism of interaction between isolated compounds and urease enzyme.
It was found that compound 1 has the strongest inhibitory activity against Jack bean urease (IC50 = 6.27 ± 0.03 μM), compared with thiourea as a standard inhibitor (IC50 = 21.1 ± 0.3 μM).
The inhibition potency is probably due to the formation of appropriate hydrogen bonds and hydrophobic interactions between the investigated compounds and urease enzyme active site and confirms its traditional usage.
PMCID: PMC3575251  PMID: 23351363
Boswellia carterii; Urease inhibitor; Boswellic acid; Docking; Autodock
10.  Boswellic acid inhibits expression of acid sphingomyelinase in intestinal cells 
Boswellic acid is a type of triterpenoids with antiinflammatory and antiproliferative properties. Sphingomyelin metabolism generates multiple lipid signals affecting cell proliferation, inflammation, and apoptosis. Upregulation of acid sphingomyelinase (SMase) has been found in several inflammation-related diseases such as inflammatory bowel diseases, atherosclerosis, and diabetes.
The present study is to examine the effect of 3-acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acids (AKBA), a potent boswellic acid, on acid SMase activity and expression in intestinal cells. Both transformed Caco-2 cells and non-transformed Int407 cells were incubated with AKBA. After incubation, the change of acid SMase activity was assayed biochemically, the enzyme protein was examined by Western blot, and acid SMase mRNA was quantified by qPCR.
We found that AKBA decreased acid SMase activity in both intestinal cell lines in dose and time dependent manners without affecting the secretion of the enzyme to the cell culture medium. The effect of AKBA was more effective in the fetal bovine serum-free culture medium. Among different types of boswellic acid, AKBA was the most potent one. The inhibitory effect on acid SMase activity occurred only in the intact cells but not in cell-free extract in the test tubes. At low concentration, AKBA only decreased the acid SMase activity but not the quantity of the enzyme protein. However, at high concentration, AKBA decreased both the mass of acid SMase protein and the mRNA levels of acid SMase in the cells, as demonstrated by Western blot and qPCR, respectively. Under the concentrations decreasing acid SMase activity, AKBA significantly inhibited cell proliferation.
We identified a novel inhibitory effect of boswellic acids on acid SMase expression, which may have implications in human diseases and health.
PMCID: PMC2789714  PMID: 19951413
11.  Activation of Heat Shock and Antioxidant Responses by the Natural Product Celastrol: Transcriptional Signatures of a Thiol-targeted Molecule 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2008;19(3):1104-1112.
Stress response pathways allow cells to sense and respond to environmental changes and adverse pathophysiological states. Pharmacological modulation of cellular stress pathways has implications in the treatment of human diseases, including neurodegenerative disorders, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. The quinone methide triterpene celastrol, derived from a traditional Chinese medicinal herb, has numerous pharmacological properties, and it is a potent activator of the mammalian heat shock transcription factor HSF1. However, its mode of action and spectrum of cellular targets are poorly understood. We show here that celastrol activates Hsf1 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae at a similar effective concentration seen in mammalian cells. Transcriptional profiling revealed that celastrol treatment induces a battery of oxidant defense genes in addition to heat shock genes. Celastrol activated the yeast Yap1 oxidant defense transcription factor via the carboxy-terminal redox center that responds to electrophilic compounds. Antioxidant response genes were likewise induced in mammalian cells, demonstrating that the activation of two major cell stress pathways by celastrol is conserved. We report that celastrol's biological effects, including inhibition of glucocorticoid receptor activity, can be blocked by the addition of excess free thiol, suggesting a chemical mechanism for biological activity based on modification of key reactive thiols by this natural product.
PMCID: PMC2262981  PMID: 18199679
12.  Avicin D: A Protein Reactive Plant Isoprenoid Dephosphorylates Stat 3 by Regulating Both Kinase and Phosphatase Activities 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(5):e5578.
Avicins, a class of electrophilic triterpenoids with pro-apoptotic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, have been shown to induce redox-dependant post-translational modification of cysteine residues to regulate protein function. Based on (a) the cross-talk that occurs between redox and phosphorylation processes, and (b) the role of Stat3 in the process of apoptosis and carcinogenesis, we chose to study the effects of avicins on the processes of phosphorylation/dephosphorylation in Stat3. Avicins dephosphorylate Stat3 in a variety of human tumor cell lines, leading to a decrease in the transcriptional activity of Stat3. The expression of Stat3-regulated proteins such as c-myc, cyclin D1, Bcl2, survivin and VEGF were reduced in response to avicin treatment. Underlying avicin-induced dephosphorylation of Stat3 was dephosphorylation of JAKs, as well as activation of protein phosphatase-1. Downregulation of both Stat3 activity and expression of Stat 3-controlled pro-survival proteins, contributes to the induction of apoptosis in avicin treated tumor cells. Based on the role of Stat3 in inflammation and wounding, and the in vivo inhibition of VEGF by avicins in a mouse skin carcinogenesis model, it is likely that avicin-induced inhibition of Stat3 activity results in the suppression of the pro-inflammatory and pro-oxidant stromal environment of tumors. Activation of PP-1, which also acts as a cellular economizer, combined with the redox regulation by avicins, can aid in redirecting metabolism from growth promoting anabolic to energy sparing pathways.
PMCID: PMC2680980  PMID: 19440292
13.  Boswellic Acid Inhibits Growth and Metastasis of Human Colorectal Cancer in Orthotopic Mouse Model By Downregulating Inflammatory, Proliferative, Invasive, and Angiogenic Biomarkers 
Numerous cancer therapeutics were originally identified from natural products used in traditional medicine. One such agent is acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA), derived from the gum resin of the Boswellia serrata known as Salai guggal or Indian frankincense. Traditionally it has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat proinflammatory conditions. In the present report, we hypothesized that AKBA can affect the growth and metastasis of colorectal cancer (CRC) in orthotopically-implanted tumors in nude mice. We found that the oral administration of AKBA (50-200 mg/kg) dose-dependently inhibited the growth of CRC tumors in mice, resulting in decrease in tumor volumes than those seen in vehicle-treated mice without significant decreases in body weight. In addition, we observed that AKBA was highly effective in suppressing ascites and distant metastasis to the liver, lungs, and spleen in orthotopically-implanted tumors in nude mice. When examined for the mechanism, we found that markers of tumor proliferation index Ki-67 and the microvessel density CD31; were significantly downregulated by AKBA treatment. We also found that AKBA significantly suppressed NF-κB activation in the tumor tissue and expression of pro-inflammatory (COX2), tumor survival (bcl-2, bcl-xL, IAP-1, survivin), proliferative (cyclin D1), invasive (ICAM-1, MMP-9) and angiogenic (CXCR4 and VEGF) biomarkers. When examined for serum and tissue levels of AKBA, a dose-dependent increase in the levels of the drug was detected, indicating its bioavailability. Thus, our findings suggest that this boswellic acid analogue can inhibit the growth and metastasis of human CRC in vivo through downregulation of cancer-associated biomarkers.
PMCID: PMC3246525  PMID: 21702037
AKBA; colorectal cancer; NF-κB; growth; metastasis
14.  Avicin D, a Plant Triterpenoid, Induces Cell Apoptosis by Recruitment of Fas and Downstream Signaling Molecules into Lipid Rafts 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8532.
Avicins, a family of triterpene electrophiles originally identified as potent inhibitors of tumor cell growth, have been shown to be pleiotropic compounds that also possess antioxidant, anti-mutagenic, and anti-inflammatory activities. We previously showed that Jurkat cells, which express a high level of Fas, are very sensitive to treatment with avicins. Thus, we hypothesized that avicins may induce cell apoptosis by activation of the Fas pathway. By using a series of cell lines deficient in cell death receptors, we demonstrated that upon avicin D treatment, Fas translocates to the cholesterol- and sphingolipid-enriched membrane microdomains known as lipid rafts. In the lipid rafts, Fas interacts with Fas-associated death domain (FADD) and Caspase-8 to form death-inducing signaling complex (DISC) and thus mediates cell apoptosis. Interfering with lipid raft organization by using a cholesterol-depleting compound, methyl-β-cyclodextrin, not only prevents the clustering of Fas and its DISC complex but also reduces the sensitivity of the cells to avicin D. Avicin D activates Fas pathways independent of the association between extracellular Fas ligands and Fas receptors. A deficiency in Fas and its downstream signaling molecules leads to the resistance of the cells to avicin D treatment. Taken together, our results demonstrate that avicin D triggers the redistribution of Fas in the membrane lipid rafts, where Fas activates receptor-mediated cell death.
PMCID: PMC2797328  PMID: 20046832
15.  Chemical modifications of natural triterpenes - glycyrrhetinic and boswellic acids: evaluation of their biological activity 
Tetrahedron  2008;64(51):11541-11548.
Synthetic analogues of naturally occurring triterpenoids; glycyrrhetinic acid, arjunolic acid and boswellic acids, by modification of A-ring with a cyano- and enone- functionalities, have been reported. A novel method of synthesis of α-cyanoenones from isoxazoles is reported. Bio-assays using primary mouse macrophages and tumor cell lines indicate potent anti-inflammatory and cytotoxic activities associated with cyanoenones of boswellic acid and glycyrrhetinic acid.
PMCID: PMC2900779  PMID: 20622928
16.  The Anticancer Plant Triterpenoid, Avicin D, Regulates Glucocorticoid Receptor Signaling: Implications for Cellular Metabolism 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e28037.
Avicins, a family of apoptotic triterpene electrophiles, are known to regulate cellular metabolism and energy homeostasis, by targeting the mitochondria. Having evolved from “ancient hopanoids,” avicins bear a structural resemblance with glucocorticoids (GCs), which are the endogenous regulators of metabolism and energy balance. These structural and functional similarities prompted us to compare the mode of action of avicin D with dexamethasone (Dex), a prototypical GC. Using cold competition assay, we show that Avicin D competes with Dex for binding to the GC receptor (GR), leading to its nuclear translocation. In contrast to Dex, avicin-induced nuclear translocation of GR does not result in transcriptional activation of GC-dependent genes. Instead we observe a decrease in the expression of GC-dependent metabolic proteins such as PEPCK and FASN. However, like Dex, avicin D treatment does induce a transrepressive effect on the pro-inflammatory transcription factor NF-κB. While avicin's ability to inhibit NF-κB and its downstream targets appear to be GR-dependent, its pro-apoptotic effects were independent of GR expression. Using various deletion mutants of GR, we demonstrate the requirement of both the DNA and ligand binding domains of GR in mediating avicin D's transrepressive effects. Modeling of avicin-GR interaction revealed that avicin molecule binds only to the antagonist confirmation of GR. These findings suggest that avicin D has properties of being a selective GR modulator that separates transactivation from transrepression. Since the gene-activating properties of GR are mainly linked to its metabolic effects, and the negative interference with the activity of transcription factors to its anti-inflammatory and immune suppressive effects, the identification of such a dissociated GR ligand could have great potential for therapeutic use.
PMCID: PMC3221683  PMID: 22132201
17.  The NF-kappa B inhibitor, celastrol, could enhance the anti-cancer effect of gambogic acid on oral squamous cell carcinoma 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:343.
Gambogic acid (GA) is a major active ingredient of gamboge, a widely used traditional Chinese medicine that has been reported to be a potent cytotoxic agent against some malignant tumors. Many studies have shown that the NF-kappa B signaling pathway plays an important role in anti-apoptosis and the drug resistance of tumor cells during chemotherapy. In this study, the effects and mechanisms of GA and the NF-kappa B inhibitor celastrol on oral cancer cells were investigated.
Three human oral squamous cell carcinoma cell lines, Tca8113, TSCC and NT, were treated with GA alone, celastrol alone or GA plus celastrol. Cytotoxicity was assessed by MTT assay. The rate of apoptosis was examined with annexin V/PI staining as well as transmission electronic microscopy in Tca8113 cells. The level of constitutive NF-kappa B activity in oral squamous cell carcinoma cell lines was determined by immunofluorescence assays and nuclear extracts and electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSAs) in vitro. To further investigate the role of NF-kappa B activity in GA and celastrol treatment in oral squamous cell carcinoma, we used the dominant negative mutant SR-IκBα to inhibit NF-kappa B activity and to observe its influence on the effect of GA.
The results showed that GA could inhibit the proliferation and induce the apoptosis of the oral squamous cell carcinoma cell lines and that the NF-kappa B pathway was simultaneously activated by GA treatment. The minimal cytotoxic dose of celastrol was able to effectively suppress the GA-induced NF-kappa B pathway activation. Following the combined treatment with GA and the minimal cytotoxic dose of celastrol or the dominant negative mutant SR-IκBα, proliferation was significantly inhibited, and the apoptotic rate of Tca8113 cells was significantly increased.
The combination of GA and celastrol has a synergistic antitumor effect. The effect can be primarily attributed to apoptosis induced by a decrease in NF-kappa B pathway activation. The NF-kappa B signaling pathway plays an important role in this process. Therefore, combining GA and celastrol may be a promising modality for treating oral squamous cell carcinoma.
PMCID: PMC2760578  PMID: 19778460
18.  Efficacy of boswellic acid on lysosomal acid hydrolases, lipid peroxidation and anti-oxidant status in gouty arthritic mice 
To evaluate the efficacy of boswellic acid against monosodium urate crystal-induced inflammation in mice.
The mice were divided into four experimental groups. Group I served as control; mice in group II were injected with monosodium urate crystal; group III consisted of monosodium urate crystal-induced mice who were treated with boswellic acid (30 mg/kg/b.w.); group IV comprised monosodium urate crystal-induced mice who were treated with indomethacin (3 mg/kg/b.w.). Paw volume and levels/activities of lysosomal enzymes, lipid peroxidation, anti-oxidant status and inflammatory mediator TNF-α were determined in control and monosodium urate crystal-induced mice. In addition, the levels of β-glucuronidase and lactate dehydrogenase were also measured in monosodium urate crystal-incubated polymorphonuclear leucocytes (PMNL) in vitro.
The activities of lysosomal enzymes, lipid peroxidation, and tumour necrosis factor-α levels and paw volume were increased significantly in monosodium urate crystal-induced mice, whereas the activities of antioxidant status were in turn decreased. However, these changes were modulated to near normal levels upon boswellic acid administration. In vitro, boswellic acid reduced the level of β-glucuronidase and lactate dehydrogenase in monosodium urate crystal-incubated PMNL in concentration dependent manner when compared with control cells.
The results obtained in this study further strengthen the anti-inflammatory/antiarthritic effect of boswellic acid, which was already well established by several investigators.
PMCID: PMC3609259  PMID: 23569882
Boswellic acid; Gouty arthritis; Indomethacin; Lysosomal enzymes; Polymorphonuclear leucocytes; Monosodium urate; Lipid peroxidation; Antioxidant status; Anti-inflammatory effect; Antiarthritic effect; Inflammation
19.  From a Traditional Medicinal Plant to a Rational Drug: Understanding the Clinically Proven Wound Healing Efficacy of Birch Bark Extract 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86147.
Birch bark has a long lasting history as a traditional medicinal remedy to accelerate wound healing. Recently, the efficacy of birch bark preparations has also been proven clinically. As active principle pentacyclic triterpenes are generally accepted. Here, we report a comprehensive study on the underlying molecular mechanisms of the wound healing properties of a well-defined birch bark preparation named as TE (triterpene extract) as well as the isolated single triterpenes in human primary keratinocytes and porcine ex-vivo wound healing models.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We show positive wound healing effects of TE and betulin in scratch assay experiments with primary human keratinocytes and in a porcine ex-vivo wound healing model (WHM). Mechanistical studies elucidate that TE and betulin transiently upregulate pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines and cyclooxygenase-2 on gene and protein level. For COX-2 and IL-6 this increase of mRNA is due to an mRNA stabilizing effect of TE and betulin, a process in which p38 MAPK and HuR are involved. TE promotes keratinocyte migration, putatively by increasing the formation of actin filopodia, lamellipodia and stress fibers. Detailed analyses show that the TE components betulin, lupeol and erythrodiol exert this effect even in nanomolar concentrations. Targeting the actin cytoskeleton is dependent on the activation of Rho GTPases.
Our results provide insights to understand the molecular mechanism of the clinically proven wound healing effect of birch bark. TE and betulin address the inflammatory phase of wound healing by transient up-regulation of several pro-inflammatory mediators. Further, they enhance migration of keratinocytes, which is essential in the second phase of wound healing. Our results, together with the clinically proven efficacy, identify birch bark as the first medical plant with a high potential to improve wound healing, a field which urgently needs effective remedies.
PMCID: PMC3899119  PMID: 24465925
20.  Identification of Novel Anti-inflammatory Agents from Ayurvedic Medicine for Prevention of Chronic Diseases 
Current drug targets  2011;12(11):1595-1653.
Inflammation, although first characterized by Cornelius Celsus, a physician in first Century Rome, it was Rudolf Virchow, a German physician in nineteenth century who suggested a link between inflammation and cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, pulmonary diseases, neurological diseases and other chronic diseases. Extensive research within last three decades has confirmed these observations and identified the molecular basis for most chronic diseases and for the associated inflammation. The transcription factor, Nuclear Factor-kappaB (NF-κB) that controls over 500 different gene products, has emerged as major mediator of inflammation. Thus agents that can inhibit NF-κB and diminish chronic inflammation have potential to prevent or delay the onset of the chronic diseases and further even treat them. In an attempt to identify novel anti-inflammatory agents which are safe and effective, in contrast to high throughput screen, we have turned to “reverse pharmacology” or “bed to benchside” approach. We found that Ayurveda, a science of long life, almost 6000 years old, can serve as a “goldmine” for novel anti-inflammatory agents used for centuries to treat chronic diseases. The current review is an attempt to provide description of various Ayurvedic plants currently used for treatment, their active chemical components, and the inflammatory pathways that they inhibit.
PMCID: PMC3170500  PMID: 21561421
21.  Synthetic Triterpenoids Can Protect Against Toxicity Without Reducing the Efficacy of Treatment with Carboplatin and Paclitaxel in Experimental Lung Cancer 
Dose-Response  2013;12(1):136-151.
Synthetic oleanane triterpenoids are multifunctional drugs being developed for the prevention and treatment of a variety of chronic diseases driven by inflammation and oxidative stress. Low nanomolar concentrations of triterpenoids inhibit the induction of inflammatory cytokines, and these drugs are potent activators of the Nrf2 cytoprotective pathway. In contrast, low micromolar concentrations of triterpenoids increased the production of ROS and induced apoptosis in a dose-dependent manner in malignant MCF10 CA1a breast cancer cells. Because cancer cells respond differently to ROS than normal cells, it should be possible to exploit these differences therapeutically. In an experimental model of lung cancer, the triterpenoids activated the Nrf2 pathway, as seen by induction of the cytoprotective enzyme NQO1, and reduced the toxicity of carboplatin and paclitaxel. The induction of the Nrf2 pathway in the lung did not suppress the efficacy of treatment with carboplatin and paclitaxel, as the average tumor burden in the group treated with the combination of CDDO-Me and carboplatin/paclitaxel decreased by 90% (P < 0.05 vs. the controls and both single treatment groups). Understanding the dose response of triterpenoids and related drugs will help provide the proper context for optimizing their potential clinical utility.
PMCID: PMC3960959  PMID: 24659938
triterpenoid; CDDO-Methyl ester; reactive oxygen species; Nrf2; carboplatin toxicity; lung cancer
22.  Preventive and Therapeutic Euphol Treatment Attenuates Experimental Colitis in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27122.
The tetracyclic triterpene euphol is the main constituent found in the sap of Euphorbia tirucalli. This plant is widely known in Brazilian traditional medicine for its use in the treatment of several kinds of cancer, including leukaemia, prostate and breast cancers. Here, we investigated the effect of euphol on experimental models of colitis and the underlying mechanisms involved in its action.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Colitis was induced in mice either with dextran sulfate sodium (DSS) or with 2,4,6-trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid (TNBS), and the effect of euphol (3, 10 and 30 mg/kg) on colonic injury was assessed. Pro-inflammatory mediators and cytokines were measured by immunohistochemistry, enzyme-Linked immunoabsorbent assay (ELISA), real time-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and flow cytometry. Preventive and therapeutic oral administration of euphol attenuated both DSS- and TNBS-induced acute colitis as observed by a significant reduction of the disease activity index (DAI), histological/microscopic damage score and myeloperoxidase (MPO) activity in colonic tissue. Likewise, euphol treatment also inhibited colon tissue levels and expression of IL-1β, CXCL1/KC, MCP-1, MIP-2, TNF-α and IL-6, while reducing NOS2, VEGF and Ki67 expression in colonic tissue. This action seems to be likely associated with inhibition of activation of nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB). In addition, euphol decreased LPS-induced MCP-1, TNF-α, IL-6 and IFN-γ, but increased IL-10 secretion from bone marrow-derived macrophages in vitro. Of note, euphol, at the same schedule of treatment, markedly inhibited both selectin (P- and E-selectin) and integrin (ICAM-1, VCAM-1 and LFA-1) expression in colonic tissue.
Together, these results clearly demonstrated that orally-administered euphol, both preventive or therapeutic treatment were effective in reducing the severity of colitis in two models of chemically-induced mouse colitis and suggest this plant-derived compound might be a potential molecule in the management of inflammatory bowel diseases.
PMCID: PMC3206917  PMID: 22073270
23.  Unifying Mechanisms of Action of the Anticancer Activities of Triterpenoids and Synthetic Analogs 
Triterpenoids such as betulinic acid (BA) and synthetic analogs of oleanolic acid [2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9-dien-28-oic acid (CDDO)] and glycyrrhetinic acid [2-cyano-3,11-dioxo-18β-oleana-1,12-dien-30-oc acid (CDODA)] are potent anticancer agents that exhibit antiproliferative, antiangiogenic, anti-inflammatory and pro-apoptotic activities. Although their effects on multiple pathways have been reported, unifying mechanisms of action have not been reported. Studies in this laboratory have now demonstrated that several triterpenoids including BA and some derivatives, celastrol, methyl ursolatee, β-boswellic acid derivatives, and the synthetic analogs CDDO, CDODA and their esters decreased expression of specificity protein (Sp) transcription factors and several pro-oncogenic Sp-regulated genes in multiple cancer cell lines. The mechanisms of this response are both compound- and cell context-dependent and include activation of both proteasome-dependent and -independent pathways. Triterpenoid-mediated induction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) has now been characterized as an important proteasome-independent pathway for downregulation of Sp transcription factors. ROS decreases expression of microRNA-27a (miR-27a) and miR-20a/miR-17-5p and this results in the induction of the transcriptional “Sp-repressors” ZBTB10 and ZBTB4, respectively, which in turn downregulate Sp and Sp-regulated genes. Triterpenoids also activate or deactive nuclear receptors and G-protein coupled receptors, and these pathways contribute to their antitumorigenic activity and may also play a role in targeting Sp1, Sp3 and Sp4 which are highly overexpressed in multiple cancers and appear to be important for maintaining the cancer phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3532564  PMID: 22583404
Sp transcription factors; downregulation; reactive oxygen species
24.  Suppression of autoimmune arthritis by Celastrus-derived Celastrol through modulation of pro-inflammatory chemokines 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2012;20(17):5229-5234.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease characterized by chronic inflammation of the synovial joints, deformities, and disability. The prolonged use of conventional anti-inflammatory drugs is associated with severe adverse effects. Therefore, there is an urgent need for safer and less expensive therapeutic products. Celastrol is a bioactive component of Celastrus, a traditional Chinese medicine, and it possesses anti-arthritic activity. However, the mechanism of action of Celastrol remains to be fully defined. In this study based on the rat adjuvant-induced arthritis (AA) model of RA, we examined the effect of Celastrol on two of the key mediators of arthritic inflammation, namely chemokines and their receptors, and related pro-inflammatory cytokines. We treated arthritic Lewis rats with Celastrol (200 μg/rat) or its vehicle by daily intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection beginning at the onset of AA. At the peak phase of AA, the sera, the draining lymph node cells, spleen adherent cells, and synovial-infiltrating cells of these rats were harvested and tested. Celastrol-treated rats showed a significant reduction in the levels of chemokines (RANTES, MCP-1, MIP-1α, and GRO/KC) as well as cytokines (TNF-α and IL-1β) that induce them, compared to the vehicle-treated rats. However, Celastrol did not have much effect on cellular expression of chemokine receptors except for an increase in CCR1. Further, Celastrol inhibited the migration of spleen adherent cells in vitro. Thus, Celastrol-induced suppression of various chemokines that mediate cellular infiltration into the joints might contribute to its anti-arthritic activity. Our results suggest that Celastrol might offer a promising alternative/adjunct treatment for RA
PMCID: PMC3449088  PMID: 22854193
Inflammation; arthritis; chemokines; cytokines; traditional Chinese medicine; natural plant products; animal model
25.  The Apoptotic Effect of D Rhamnose β-Hederin, a Novel Oleanane-Type Triterpenoid Saponin on Breast Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90848.
There is growing interest in development of natural products as anti-cancer and chemopreventive agents. Many triterpenoids have been proved as potential agents for chemoprevention and therapy of breast cancer. Ginsenosides from ginseng, which mostly belong to dammarane-type triterpenoids, have gained great attention for their anti-breast cancer activity with diverse mechanisms. However, studies of other kinds of triterpenoid saponins on breast cancer are limited. Previously, we purified and identified a novel oleanane-type triterpene saponin named D Rhamnose β-hederin (DRβ-H) from Clematis ganpiniana, a Chinese traditional anti-tumor herb. In the present study, DRβ-H showed strong inhibitory activity on the growth of various breast cancer cells and induced apoptosis in these cells. DRβ-H inhibited PI3K/AKT and activated ERK signaling pathway. PI3K inhibitor LY294002 synergistically enhanced DRβ-H-induced apoptosis whereas MEK inhibitor U0126 reduced the apoptosis rate. Moreover, DRβ-H regulated the ratio of pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins. Furthermore, DRβ-H induced depolarization of mitochondrial membrane potential which released Apaf-1 and Cytochrome C from the inter membrane space into the cytosol, where they promoted caspase-9 and caspase-3 activation. This is the first report on the pro-apoptotic effects of DRβ-H, a novel oleanane-type triterpenoid saponin, on breast cancer cells and its comprehensive apoptosis pathways. It implied that oleanane-type triterpenoid saponin DRβ-H could be a promising candidate for chemotherapy of breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3946269  PMID: 24603880

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