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Eur J Pharmacol. 2019 Oct 12;865:172722. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2019.172722. [Epub ahead of print]

Sofalcone, a gastroprotective drug, covalently binds to KEAP1 to activate Nrf2 resulting in anti-colitic activity.

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College of Pharmacy, Pusan National University, Busan, Republic of Korea.
College of Pharmacy, Pusan National University, Busan, Republic of Korea. Electronic address:


Sofalcone is a synthetic chalcone being used as a gastric mucosa protective agent in Japan. Sofalcone contains a 1,3-diaryl-2-propen-1-one moiety, which is a common chemical scaffold in naturally occurring chalcones. The α,β-unsaturated carbonyl group (Michael reaction acceptor) has electrophilic properties. We investigated the biochemical mechanisms by which sofalcone activated the cytoprotective and anti-inflammatory nuclear factor-erythroid 2 (NF-E2) p45-related factor 2 (Nrf2)-heme oxygenase (HO)-1 pathway. Furthermore, we investigated whether the activation of this pathway was involved in sofalcone -mediated protective effects in an experimental colitis model. Sofalcone induced HO-1 protein expression, which was dependent on increased nuclear accumulation of Nrf2 in human colon carcinoma cells. In addition, Sofalcone reacted with nucleophilic thiol compounds to form Michael adducts. A reduced form of sofalcone (SFCR) in which the Michael reaction acceptor was deactivated, did not exert biological or chemical activity. Biotin-tagged sofalcone bound to Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (KEAP1), a cytosolic repressor of Nrf2. This binding was prevented by pretreatment with sofalcone and a thiol compound but not with SFCR. Furthermore, sofalcone treatment induced dissociation of the Nrf2-KEAP1 complex. Rectal administration of sofalcone alleviated colon damage and inflammation and increased colon nuclear accumulation of Nrf2 and HO-1 levels in a dinitrobenzene sulfonic acid-induced rat colitis model. The protective effects of sofalcone against colon damage and inflammation were significantly inhibited by co-administration of an HO-1 inhibitor. In conclusion, sofalcone activated the Nrf2-HO-1 pathway by covalently binding to KEAP1 via Michael addition, and may confer anti-colitic effects by inducing Nrf2 activation.


Chalcone; Colitis; Electrophile; Michael acceptor; Nrf2; Sofalcone

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