Prostaglandins biosynthesis and nitric oxide production have been implicated in the process of carcinogenesis and inflammation. In this study, we investigated the effect of various flavonoids and (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate on the activities of inducible cyclooxygenase (COX-2) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-activated RAW 264.7 macrophages. Apigenin, genistein and kaempferol were markedly active inhibitors of transcriptional activation of COX-2, with IC50 <15 μM. In addition, apigenin and kaempferol were also markedly active inhibitors of transcriptional activation of iNOS, with IC50 <15 μM. Of those compounds tested, apigenin was the most potent inhibitor of transcriptional activation of both COX-2 and iNOS. Western and northern blot analyses demonstrated that apigenin significantly blocked protein and mRNA expression of COX-2 and iNOS in LPS-activated macrophages. Transient transfection experiments showed that LPS caused an ~4-fold increase in both COX-2 and iNOS promoter activities, these increments were suppressed by apigenin. Moreover, electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) experiments indicated that apigenin blocked the LPS-induced activation of nuclear factor-kB (NF-kB). The inhibition of NF-kB activation occurs through the prevention of inhibitor kB (IkB) degradation. Transient transfection experiments also showed that apigenin inhibited NF-kB-dependent transcriptional activity. Finally, we showed that apigenin could inhibit the IkB kinase activity induced by LPS or interferon-γ. The results of further studies suggest that suppression of transcriptional activation of COX-2 and iNOS by apigenin might mainly be mediated through inhibition of IkB kinase activity. This study suggests that modulation of COX-2 and iNOS by apigenin and related flavonoids may be important in the prevention of carcinogenesis and inflammation.
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