Anti-malarial drug artesunate protects against cigarette smoke-induced lung injury in mice

David S W Ng, Wupeng Liao, W S Daniel Tan, Tze Khee Chan, Xin Yi Loh, W S Fred Wong
Phytomedicine 2014 October 15, 21 (12): 1638-44
Cigarette smoking is the primary cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is mediated by lung infiltration with inflammatory cells, enhanced oxidative stress, and tissue destruction. Anti-malarial drug artesunate has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative actions in mouse asthma models. We hypothesized that artesunate can protect against cigarette smoke-induced acute lung injury via its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties. Artesunate was given by oral gavage to BALB/c mice daily 2h before 4% cigarette smoke exposure for 1h over five consecutive days. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid and lungs were collected for analyses of cytokines, oxidative damage and antioxidant activities. Bronchial epithelial cell BEAS-2B was exposed to cigarette smoke extract (CSE) and used to study the mechanisms of action of artesunate. Artesunate suppressed cigarette smoke-induced increases in BAL fluid total and differential cell counts; levels of IL-1β, MCP-1, IP-10 and KC; and levels of oxidative biomarkers 8-isoprostane, 8-OHdG and 3-nitrotyrosine in a dose-dependent manner. Artesunate promoted anti-oxidant catalase activity and reduced NADPH oxidase 2 (NOX2) protein level in the lungs from cigarette smoke-exposed mice. In BEAS-2B cells, artesunate suppressed pro-inflammatory PI3K/Akt and p44/42 MAPK signaling pathways, and increased nuclear Nrf2 accumulation in response to CSE. Artesunate possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties against cigarette smoke-induced lung injury, probably via inhibition of PI3K and p42/22 MAPK signaling pathways, augmentation of Nrf2 and catalase activities, and reduction of NOX2 level. Our data suggest that artesunate may have therapeutic potential for treating COPD.

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