Melittin enhances apoptosis through suppression of IL-6/sIL-6R complex-induced NF-κB and STAT3 activation and Bcl-2 expression for human fibroblast-like synoviocytes in rheumatoid arthritis

Seong-Kyu Kim, Ki-Yeun Park, Wern-Chan Yoon, Sung-Hoon Park, Kwan-Kyu Park, Dae-Hyun Yoo, Jung-Yoon Choe
Joint, Bone, Spine: Revue du Rhumatisme 2011, 78 (5): 471-7

OBJECTIVE: Resistance to apoptosis of fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) is considered as a major characteristic in RA. This study was designed to identify whether melittin has a pro-apoptotic effect in IL-6/sIL6R-stimulated human FLS by investigating the expression of mitochondrial apoptosis-related genes, nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB), and signal transducer and activators of transcription (STAT) activation.

METHODS: Cell viability was determined using a MTT assay after melittin treatment. Expressions of STAT3 and mitochondrial apoptosis-related genes induced by the IL-6/sIL-6R complex were determined by real time-polymerase chain reaction and western blotting. The expression of NF-κB p65 following IL-6 stimulation was determined by western blot analysis. The effects of melittin on the expression of apoptosis-related genes and the transcription factors NF-κB p65 and STAT3 were assessed in FLS. Apoptosis of FLS was determined by TUNEL-labeling to detect DNA strand breaks and DNA fragmentation assays. Caspase-3 activity was determined by a colorimetric assay.

RESULTS: IL-6/sIL-6R induced the activation of the transcription factors, STAT3, NF-κB p65 (nucleus), and Bcl-2. Melittin increased the expression of pro-apoptosis-related molecules, namely caspase-3, caspase-9, Apaf-1, and cytosolic cytochrome c, in a dose-dependent manner after treatment with IL-6/sIL-6R. Melittin inhibited STAT3 activation, translocation of NF-κB p65 into the nucleus, and expression of anti-apoptotic genes such as Bcl-2 and mitochondrial cytochrome c.

CONCLUSIONS: The pro-apoptotic effects of melittin likely result from inhibition of the activation of the transcription factors, STAT3 and NF-κB p65, and regulation of mitochondrial apoptosis-related genes. Melittin is thus a promising therapeutic option for RA as it induces apoptosis in apoptosis-resistant synoviocytes.

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