Background: Ambrosia arborescens has been used in Andean traditional medicine to reduce problems associated with various inflammatory diseases and conditions, although the underlying mechanism is unknown. Hypothesis/purpose: The sesquiterpene lactones (SLs) coronopilin and damsin, which are major secondary metabolites of A. arborescens, have anti-inflammatory activity by attenuation of IL-6 and MCP-1 expression and inhibition of NF-κB in human dermal fibroblasts (HDFa) and human keratinocytes (HaCaT). Study design: In order to confirm a high concentration of damsin and coronopilin in the plant material, a quantitative method was developed. The effect of the pure compounds on cytokine and NF-κB expression was examined, as well as their effects on HDFa and HaCaT cell morphology and viability. Methods: Coronopilin and damsin were quantified by HPLC-DAD analysis, from EtOAc extracts of the aerial parts of A. arborescens. Cell morphology was investigated by phase-contrast microscopy and cell viability by the MTT assay. IL-6 and MCP-1 cytokine gene expression was assessed by quantitative real-time RT-PCR in LPS stimulated cells. The NF-κB pathway was studied through western blotting of the phosphorylated forms of p65 and p50/p105, as well as the non-phosphorylated IκB. Dexamethasone was used as positive control. Results: Dry aerial parts contained 12.3 mg/g and 13.4 mg/g of coronopilin and damsin, respectively. Treatment with either compound (1–10 µM) for 24 h attenuated LPS-induced mRNA expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6 and the chemokine MCP-1 in HDFa cells. The down-regulation of MCP-1 mRNA induced by coronopilin and damsin was confirmed on the protein level. Damsin reduced phosphorylated p65 and p105 subunits in HDFa cells. Neither coronopilin nor damsin affected HDFa cell morphology and viability within the used concentration range (1–10 µM). Also, in HaCaT cells, treatment with damsin (1–10 µM) for 24 h inhibited the MCP-1 expression, and damsin thereby attenuated cytokine expression both in HDFa and HaCaT cells. Conclusion: We show that coronopilin and damsin from A. arborescens inhibit pro-inflammatory IL-6 and MCP-1 expression in human skin cells via NF-κB inhibition, suggesting that they may be useful for antagonizing inflammatory conditions of the human skin.
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