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Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2009 Aug;18(8):1047-60. doi: 10.1517/13543780903018880.

Can we predict the effects of NF-kappaB inhibition in sepsis? Studies with parthenolide and ethyl pyruvate.

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  • 1Department of Nephrology, Peking Union Medical College Hospital, Peking Union Medical College & Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing 100730, China.



Based partially on encouraging findings from preclinical models, interest has grown in therapeutic inhibition of NF-kappaB to limit inflammatory injury during sepsis. However, NF-kappaB also regulates protective responses, and predicting the net survival effects of such inhibition may be difficult.


To highlight the caution necessary with this therapeutic approach, we review our investigations in a mouse sepsis model with parthenolide and ethyl pyruvate, two NF-kappaB inhibitors proposed for clinical study.


Consistent with published studies, parthenolide decreased NF-kappaB binding activity and inflammatory cytokine release from lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulated RAW 264.7 cells in vitro. In LPS-challenged mice (C57BL/6J), however, while both agents decreased lung and kidney NF-kappaB binding activity and plasma cytokines early (1-3 h), these measures were increased later (6-12 h) in patterns differing significantly over time. Furthermore, despite studying several doses of parthenolide (0.25-4.0 mg/kg) and ethyl pyruvate (0.1-100 mg/kg), each produced small but consistent decreases in survival which overall were significant (p < or = 0.04 for each agent).


While NF-kappaB inhibitors hold promise for inflammatory conditions such as sepsis, caution is necessary. Clear understanding of the net effects of NF-kappaB inhibitors on outcome will be necessary before such agents are used clinically.

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