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J Pharm Pharmacol. 2011 Nov;63(11):1483-95. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-7158.2011.01349.x.

Effects of 20-hydroxyecdysone, Leuzea carthamoides extracts, dexamethasone and their combinations on the NF-κB activation in HeLa cells.

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Centre for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy, The School of Pharmacy, University of London, London, UK.



The plant steroid 20-hydroxyecdysterone (20E) and 20E-containing extracts from Leuzea carthamoides (Willd.) DC are sold with claims of anabolic and immunomodulatory effects. Yet their effect on the activation of nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), a key player in immune response and cell fate, and their influence on the NF-κB-inhibiting activity of steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is still unknown.


The ability of 20E, Leuzea extracts and selected steroidal/non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to influence the activation of NF-κB was explored using, as the experimental model, human cervical cancer HeLa-IL-6 cells stably transfected with an IL-6-bound reporter gene. Effects on cell viability and proliferation were monitored (MTT assay). HPLC-DAD was used to establish links between chemical patterns of Leuzea extracts and their bioactivities.


20E inhibited NF-κB activation (IC50 31.8 µm) but was less active than other plant metabolites (xanthohumol 3.8 µm, withaferin A 1.4 µm). Leuzea extracts with high content in 20E had a fair activating effect, but in contrast, some extracts with low 20E content significantly inhibited NF-κB activation at IC50s ranging from 3.5 to 6.2 µg/ml. Combination tests confirmed that 20E does not explain the NF-κB modulation achieved by Leuzea extracts. The extracts but not 20E itself showed a significant modulation of the NF-κB inhibitory effect of dexamethasone.


20E is unlikely a major player in the NF-κB inhibitory effects displayed by some Leuzea extracts in vitro. If confirmed in vivo, caution should prevail towards marketed Leuzea extracts that are non-standardised or standardised on 20E only, since different starting materials and extracts may even cause opposite effects. More importantly, our results indicate the interaction potential of Leuzea with steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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