Nodularin induces tumor necrosis factor-alpha and mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) and leads to induction of endoplasmic reticulum stress.
Althaea rosea (Linn.) is a medicinal plant from China and Korea that has been traditionally used to control inflammation, to stop bedwetting and as a mouthwash in cases of bleeding gums. Its flowers are employed medicinally for their emollient, demulcent and diuretic properties, which make them useful in chest complaints. Furthermore, a flower extract decoction is used to improve blood circulation, for the treatment of constipation, dysmenorrhoea, haemorrhages, etc. However, the possible mechanisms of the immune-stimulatory effect remains to be elucidated. Therefore, we investigated the role of Althaea rosea flower (ARF) extracts in the immune-stimulatory effect of macrophages and the underlying mechanisms of action. ARF water extract (ARFW) could dose-dependently increase NO production and cytokines (IL-6 and TNF-α). We also found that ARFW significantly increased the expression of iNOS and COX-2 proteins in RAW264.7 cells. Consistent with these results, MAPK protein (JNK, ERK, p38) expression levels were induced after treatment with ARFW. Additionally, ARFW showed a marked increase in the phosphorylation level of IκBα and subsequent IκBα degradation allowing NF-κB nuclear translocation. These results suggest that the immune-stimulatory effect of A. rosea flower extracts is mediated through the translocation of NF-κB p65 subunit into the nucleus from the cytoplasm and subsequent activation of pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-6 and TNF-α) and other mediators (iNOS and COX-2), which occurs mainly through MAPK signalling pathway. Thus, we suggest that ARFW could be considered as a potential therapeutic agent useful in the development of immune-stimulatory compounds.