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Betulinic Acid Attenuates Osteoarthritis via Limiting NLRP3 Inflammasome Activation to Decrease Interleukin-1 β Maturation and Secretion.

INTRODUCTION: Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common degenerative joint disorder. Prior studies revealed that activation of NLRP3 inflammasome could promote the activation and secretion of interleukin-1 β (IL-1 β ), which has an adverse effect on the progression of OA. Betulinic acid (BA) is a compound extract of birch, whether it can protect against OA and the mechanisms involved are still unknown.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: In vivo experiments, using gait analysis, ELISA, micro-CT, and scanning electron microscopy (SEM), histological staining, immunohistological (IHC) and immunofluorescence (IF) staining, and atomic force microscopy (AFM) to assess OA progression after intraperitoneal injection of 5 and 15 mg/kg BA in an OA mouse model. In vitro experiments, caspase-1, IL-1 β , and the N-terminal fragment of gasdermin D (GSDMD-NT) were measured in bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs) by using ELISA, western blot, and immunofluorescence staining.

RESULTS: We demonstrated that OA progression can be postponed with intraperitoneal injection of 5 and 15 mg/kg BA in an OA mouse model. Specifically, BA postponed DMM-induced cartilage deterioration, alleviated subchondral bone sclerosis, and relieved synovial inflammation. In vitro studies, the activated NLRP3 inflammasome produces mature IL-1 β by facilitating the cleavage of pro-IL-1 β , and BA could inhibit the activation of NLRP3 inflammasome in BMDMs.

CONCLUSIONS: Taken together, our analyses revealed that BA attenuates OA via limiting NLRP3 inflammasome activation to decrease the IL-1 β maturation and secretion.

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