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Int Immunopharmacol. 2013 Jun;16(2):306-12. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2013.03.011. Epub 2013 Apr 11.

Evaluation of the immunosuppressive activity of artesunate in vitro and in vivo.

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Department of Pathogen Biology and Immunology, Logistics University of the Chinese People's Armed Police Force, Tianjin, People's Republic of China.


Artemisinin and its derivatives have been reported to have immunosuppressive activity in some laboratory studies. However, the detail of mechanism remains to be demonstrated. The objective of this study is to clarify the immunosuppressive activity of artesunate (AST), one kind of artemisinin derivatives, and to find its unexplored mode of action. In vitro, the proliferation of T lymphocytes and its cytotoxicity were measured by WST-1 and MTT assay. In vivo, the immunomodulatory effect of AST was evaluated in a mouse model of delayed type hypersensitivity reaction (DTH), which was based on a T cell-mediated immune response. The data displayed that AST had a relatively high immunosuppressive activity with low toxicity, and could inhibit T lymphocyte proliferation induced by mitogen and alloantigen. Meanwhile, topical administration of AST could suppress DTH response significantly. Moreover, AST could also increase the secretion of TFG-β, coupling with the striking enhance of NF-κB/p65 and Smad2/3 signaling. The promotion of CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells (Tregs) was shown to be a possible mechanism involved in AST-mediated regulation. Taken together, these observations exhibit the potential of developing AST as a novel safe remedy for the treatment of T cell-mediated immune disorders.

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