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Mol Pharmacol. 2007 Jun;71(6):1640-5. Epub 2007 Mar 14.

Inhibition of tumor necrosis factor-alpha through selective blockade of Pre-mRNA splicing by shikonin.

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Graduate Institute of Life Sciences, National Defense Medical Center and Agricultural Biotechnology Research Center, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan, ROC.


We previously developed a gene-gun-based in vivo screening system and identified shikonin as a potent suppressor of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) gene expression. Here, we show that shikonin selectively inhibits the expression of TNF-alpha at the RNA splicing level. Treatment of lipopolysaccharide-stimulated human primary monocytes and THP-1 cells with shikonin resulted in normal transcriptional induction of TNF-alpha, but unspliced pre-mRNA accumulated at the expense of functional mRNA. This effect occurred with noncytotoxic doses of shikonin and was highly specific, because mRNA production of neither a housekeeping gene nor another inflammatory cytokine gene, interleukin-8 (IL-8), was affected. Moreover, cotreatment with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and shikonin increased the endpoint protein production of IL-8, accompanied by suppressed activation of the double-stranded RNA-activated protein kinase (PKR) pathway. Because PKR inactivation has been shown to down-regulate the splicing process of TNF-alpha RNA and interfere with translation, our findings suggest that shikonin may achieve differential modulation of cytokine protein expression through inactivation of the PKR pathway and reveal that regulation of TNF-alpha pre-mRNA splicing may constitute a promising target for future anti-inflammatory application.

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