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J Cell Mol Med. 2008 Sep-Oct;12(5A):1739-53. Epub 2007 Dec 5.

The ginsenoside metabolite compound K, a novel agonist of glucocorticoid receptor, induces tolerance to endotoxin-induced lethal shock.

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Department of Microbiology, College of Medicine, Chungnam National University, Daejeon, S. Korea.


Compound K (C-K), a protopanaxadiol ginsenoside metabolite, was previously shown to have immunomodulatory effects. Here, we describe a novel therapeutic role for C-K in the treatment of lethal sepsis through the modulation of Toll-like receptor (TLR) 4-associated signalling via glucocorticoid receptor (GR) binding. In mononuclear phagocytes, C-K significantly repressed the activation of TLR4/lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced NF-kappaB and mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), as well as the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines. However C-K did not affect the TLR3-mediated expression of interferon-beta or the nuclear translocation of IRF-3. C-K competed with the synthetic glucocorticoid dexamethasone for binding to GR and activated glucocorticoid responsive element (GRE)-containing reporter plasmids in a dose-dependent manner. In addition, the blockade of GR with either the GR antagonist RU486 or a siRNA against GR substantially reversed the anti-inflammatory effects of C-K. Furthermore, TLR4-dependent repression of inflammatory response genes by C-K was mediated through the disruption of p65/interferon regulatory factor complexes. Importantly, pre- or post-treatment with C-K significantly rescued mice from Gram-negative bacterial LPS-induced lethal shock by lowering their systemic inflammatory cytokine levels and by reversing the lethal sequelae of sepsis. Collectively, these results demonstrate that C-K, as a functional ligand of GR, regulates distinct TLR4-mediated inflammatory responses, and suggest a novel therapy for Gram-negative septic shock.

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