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J Biol Chem. 2007 Feb 16;282(7):4253-64. Epub 2006 Dec 6.

Withaferin a strongly elicits IkappaB kinase beta hyperphosphorylation concomitant with potent inhibition of its kinase activity.

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Laboratory of Eukaryotic Gene Expression and Signal Transduction (LEGEST), Department of Molecular Biology, Ghent University-UGent, K. L. Ledeganckstraat 35, B-9000 Gent, Belgium.


The transcription factor NFkappaB plays a critical role in normal and pathophysiological immune responses. Therefore, NFkappaB and the signaling pathways that regulate its activation have become a major focus of drug development programs. Withania somnifera (WS) is a medicinal plant that is widely used in Palestine for the treatment of various inflammatory disorders. In this study we show that the leave extract of WS, as well as its major constituent withaferin A (WA), potently inhibits NFkappaB activation by preventing the tumor necrosis factor-induced activation of IkappaB kinase beta via a thioalkylation-sensitive redox mechanism, whereas other WS-derived steroidal lactones, such as withanolide A and 12-deoxywithastramonolide, are far less effective. To our knowledge, this is the first communication of IkappaB kinase beta inhibition by a plant-derived inhibitor, coinciding with MEK1/ERK-dependent Ser-181 hyperphosphorylation. This prevents IkappaB phosphorylation and degradation, which subsequently blocks NFkappaB translocation, NFkappaB/DNA binding, and gene transcription. Taken together, our results indicate that pure WA or WA-enriched WS extracts can be considered as a novel class of NFkappaB inhibitors, which hold promise as novel anti-inflammatory agents for treatment of various inflammatory disorders and/or cancer.

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