The present study showed that silymarin, a polyphenolic flavonoid isolated from milk thistle (Silybum marianum), inhibited lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced morphological changes in the mouse RAW264.7 macrophage cell line. We also showed that silymarin inhibited the nuclear translocation and transactivation activities of nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB), which is important for macrophage activation-associated changes in cell morphology and gene expression of inflammatory cytokines. BAY-11-7085, an NF-κB inhibitor, abrogated LPS-induced morphological changes and NO production, similar to silymarin. Treatment of RAW264.7 cells with silymarin also inhibited LPS-stimulated activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs). Collectively, these experiments demonstrated that silymarin inhibited LPS-induced morphological changes in the RAW264.7 mouse macrophage cell line. Our findings indicated that the most likely mechanism underlying this biological effect involved inhibition of the MAPK pathway and NF-κB activity. Inhibition of these activities by silymarin is a potentially useful strategy for the treatment of inflammation because of the critical roles played by MAPK and NF-κB in mediating inflammatory responses in macrophages.
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