Okorji, U. P. and Olajide, Olumayokun A (2014) A semi-synthetic derivative of artemisinin, artesunate inhibits prostaglandin E2 production in LPS/IFNγ-activated BV2 microglia. Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry, 22 (17). pp. 4726-4734. ISSN 0968-0896

Artesunate is a semi-synthetic derivative of artemisinin used to treat malaria, and has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory activity. In this study, we have investigated the effect of artesunate on PGE2 production/COX-2 protein expression in LPS + IFNγ -activated BV2 microglia. To further understand the mechanism of action of this compound, we investigated its interference with NF-κB and p38 MAPK signalling pathways. PGE2 production was determined using EIA, while protein expressions of inflammatory targets like COX-2, mPGES-1, IκB, p38 and MAPKAPK2 were evaluated using western blot. An NF-κB-bearing luciferase reporter gene assay was used to test the effect of artesunate on NF-κB-mediated pro-inflammatory gene expression in HEK293 cells stimulated with TNFα (1 ng/ml). Artesunate (2 and 4 μM), significantly (p<0.01) suppressed PGE2 production in LPS + IFNγ -activated BV2 microglia. This effect was found to be mediated via reduction in COX-2 and mPGES-1 proteins. Artesunate also produced significant inhibition of TNFα and IL-6 production in activated BV2 microglia. Further investigations showed that artesunate (0.5-4 μM) significantly (p<0.001) reduced NF-κB-driven luciferase expression, and inhibited IκB phosphorylation and degradation, through inhibition of IKK. Artesunate inhibited phosphorylation of p38 MAPK and its substrate MAPKAPK2 following stimulation of microglia with LPS + IFNγ. Taken together, we have shown that artesunate prevents neuroinflammation in BV2 microglia by interfering with NF-κB and p38 MAPK signalling.