Skip to main content
  • Poster presentation
  • Open access
  • Published:

Drugs that simultaneously down-regulate IL-1β and TNF secretion significantly reduce inflammation in a rat model of antigen-induced arthritis


We have previously reported an increase in interleukin (IL)-1β levels and a continuous activation of caspase-1 in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients in the early phase of the disease. This result suggests that drugs targeting IL-1β regulatory pathways, in addition to tumor necrosis factor (TNF), may constitute promising therapeutic agents in early RA. We have recently used a THP-1 macrophage-like cell line to screen 2320 compounds for those which down-regulate IL-1β and TNF secretion. Gambogic acid, celastrol and pristimerin were three of the most promising therapeutic candidates identified in that study.


Our main goal here is to investigate whether administration of gambogic acid, celastrol or pristimerin is able to attenuate inflammation in a rat model of antigen-induced arthritis (AIA).


Drugs were administered to AIA rats (N=5-10 per group) in the early phase of arthritis, after 4 days of disease induction and for a period of 15 days. The inflammatory score, paw perimeter and body weight were evaluated during the period of treatment. Rats were sacrificed after 19 days of disease evolution and paw samples were collected for histological and immunohistochemical evaluation. Moreover, in vitro studies were performed with THP-1 macrophage-like cell line cultured with each drug, and the levels of caspase-1 and NF-kB activation were measured.


We found that both gambogic acid and celastrol significantly suppressed inflammation in joints. The histological and immunohistochemical evaluation revealed that treated rats had a normal joint structure with complete abrogation of the inflammatory infiltrate and prevention of synovial cells proliferation. Furthermore, we observed that gambogic acid and celastrol inhibit caspase-1 and NF-kB activation.


Our results showed that treatment with gambogic acid and celastrol protected AIA rats from arthritis development with a complete abrogation of joint immune cellular infiltration, proliferation and prevention of cartilage and bone damage. In conclusion, gambogic acid and celastrol can putatively constitute anti-inflammatory drugs with therapeutic efficacy in the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as RA, possibly through the down-regulation of caspase-1 and NF-kB activation.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Additional information

João E Fonseca and Luis F Moita contributed equally to this work.

Rights and permissions

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Cascão, R., Vidal, B., Raquel, H. et al. Drugs that simultaneously down-regulate IL-1β and TNF secretion significantly reduce inflammation in a rat model of antigen-induced arthritis. J Transl Med 9 (Suppl 2), P21 (2011).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI: