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J Immunol. 2000 Dec 15;165(12):7180-8.

Vitamin C inhibits NF-kappa B activation by TNF via the activation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase.

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Department of Biochemistry, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.


The transcription factor NF-kappaB is a central mediator of altered gene expression during inflammation, and is implicated in a number of pathologies, including cancer, atherosclerosis, and viral infection. We report in this study that vitamin C inhibits the activation of NF-kappaB by multiple stimuli, including IL-1 and TNF in the endothelial cell line ECV304 and in primary HUVECs. The induction of a NF-kappaB-dependent gene, IL-8, by TNF was also inhibited. The effect requires millimolar concentrations of vitamin C, which occur intracellularly in vivo, particularly during inflammation. Vitamin C was not toxic to cells, did not inhibit another inducible transcription factor, STAT1, and had no effect on the DNA binding of NF-kappaB. Inhibition by vitamin C was not simply an antioxidant effect, because redox-insensitive pathways to NF-kappaB were also blocked. Vitamin C was shown to block IL-1- and TNF-mediated degradation and phosphorylation of I-kappaBalpha (inhibitory protein that dissociates from NF-kappaB), due to inhibition of I-kappaB kinase (IKK) activation. Inhibition of TNF-driven IKK activation was mediated by p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase, because treatment of cells with vitamin C led to a rapid and sustained activation of p38, and the specific p38 inhibitor SB203580 reversed the inhibitory effect of vitamin C on IKK activity, I-kappaBalpha phosphorylation, and NF-kappaB activation. The results identify p38 as an intracellular target for high dose vitamin C.

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