Plant Extract Calms Inflammation by Blocking a Key Protein

Jim Crocker
5th March, 2024

Plant Extract Calms Inflammation by Blocking a Key Protein

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at Ajou University found that Aiouea padiformis extract reduces inflammation
  • The plant extract specifically inhibits a protein complex (NLRP3 inflammasome) involved in inflammation
  • The extract's anti-inflammatory effects were confirmed in both human immune cells and zebrafish
Inflammation is a biological response by the immune system to protect the body from infection and injury. However, when inflammation becomes chronic, it can contribute to a variety of diseases, including arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. Scientists have been searching for effective treatments that can safely reduce inflammation. While synthetic drugs are commonly used, there's a growing interest in natural compounds that might offer similar benefits with fewer side effects. Researchers at Ajou University School of Medicine have recently shed light on the anti-inflammatory properties of a plant extract that could potentially be used to treat inflammatory diseases[1]. Aiouea padiformis, a member of the Lauraceae family found in tropical regions, has not been extensively studied until now. The team focused on a specific part of the immune system known as the NLRP3 inflammasome. The NLRP3 inflammasome is a complex of proteins within immune cells that plays a critical role in the body's inflammatory response. When activated, it triggers the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β), which can lead to inflammation. Abnormal activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome is linked to various inflammatory diseases. In the study, the scientists discovered that an extract from Aiouea padiformis (AP) could inhibit the secretion of IL-1β by targeting the NLRP3 inflammasome. The AP extract was tested on two types of immune cells, J774A.1 and THP-1, and was found to be non-toxic. Moreover, the extract did not interfere with several known pathways that usually activate the NLRP3 inflammasome, such as NF-κB signaling, potassium efflux, or the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Interestingly, the AP extract's mechanism of action was linked to a decrease in the ATPase activity of NLRP3. ATPase is an enzyme that helps convert energy within the cell, and its activity is essential for the assembly of the NLRP3 inflammasome. By inhibiting ATPase activity, the AP extract prevented the formation of ASC oligomers and specks, which are necessary steps for the activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome. The anti-inflammatory effect of the AP extract was also confirmed in a living organism using a zebrafish model. Zebrafish were chosen because their immune system shares many similarities with humans, making them a valuable model for studying inflammation. The researchers induced inflammation in the zebrafish using lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a component of bacterial cell walls known to trigger an immune response. Treatment with the AP extract reduced inflammation in the zebrafish, further supporting its potential as a therapeutic agent. This discovery builds on previous research that has explored natural products as a means to control inflammation. For instance, the Guarea genus, known for its medicinal properties in Central and South America, has been studied for its capacity to inhibit the NLRP3 inflammasome as well[2]. Guarea microcarpa extract, in particular, was found to suppress NLRP3 activation without affecting other inflammasomes or key inflammatory pathways. The relevance of the NLRP3 inflammasome in inflammatory diseases has been well-documented. For example, in gout arthritis, the deposition of monosodium urate crystals activates the NLRP3 inflammasome, leading to inflammation[3]. Similarly, in rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, NLRP3 inflammasome overactivation is associated with joint damage and inflammation[4]. The ability to specifically target the NLRP3 inflammasome without disrupting other cellular functions is a promising avenue for developing new treatments for these diseases. In conclusion, the study from Ajou University School of Medicine provides new insights into the anti-inflammatory effects of Aiouea padiformis extract and its potential to inhibit the NLRP3 inflammasome. This research not only contributes to our understanding of how the NLRP3 inflammasome can be regulated but also opens the door for the development of natural, plant-based therapies for inflammatory diseases. As research continues, the hope is that compounds like the AP extract may offer a safer alternative to synthetic anti-inflammatory drugs, with fewer side effects and a lower risk of long-term complications.



Main Study

1) Aiouea padiformis extract exhibits anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting the ATPase activity of NLRP3.

Published 4th March, 2024

Related Studies

2) Guarea microcarpa C. DC. extract inhibits NLRP3 inflammasome by suppressing its ATPase activity.

3) Role of NLRP3 in the pathogenesis and treatment of gout arthritis.

4) Therapeutic Potential of Targeting the NLRP3 Inflammasome in Rheumatoid Arthritis.

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