Propionibacterium acnes is a key pathogen involved in acne inflammation. Wild bitter melon (WBM, Momordica charantia L. var. abbreviate Seringe) is consumed as both a vegetable and as folk medicine in Taiwan. We examined the inhibitory activity of the total phenolic extract (TPE) of WBM leaf on P. acnes-induced inflammatory responses in vivo and in vitro. Our data showed that TPE significantly attenuated P. acnes-induced ear swelling in mice along with microabscess. Flow cytometry analysis revealed that TPE treatment significantly decreased the migration of neutrophils and interleukin (IL)-1β+ populations in vivo. In P. acnes-stimulated human monocytic THP-1 cells, TPE suppressed the mRNA levels and production of IL-8, IL-1β, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α in vitro. In addition, TPE suppressed P. acnes-induced matrix metalloproteinase-9 levels. TPE blocked nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) activation and inactivated mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK); these actions may partially account for its inhibitory effect on cytokine production. The quantitative HPLC analysis revealed gallic, chlorogenic, caffeic, ferulic, and cinnamic acids, myricetin, quercetin, luteolin, apigenin, and thymol in TPE. All these phenolics significantly suppressed P. acnes-induced IL-8 production in vitro. Our results suggest that WBM leaf extract effectively inhibits P. acnes-induced inflammatory responses and may be useful to relieve the inflammation of acne.
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