Many diseases occur when the immune system is weakened. Intracellular signals activate immuno-responsive cells to produce cytokines that modulate the immune response. Schisandra chinensis has been used traditionally to treat general fatigue, neurasthenia, and spontaneous sweating. In the present study, the effect of constituents of S. chinensis on cytokine release by human monocytic leukemia cells (THP-1) was tested using microparticle-based flow cytometric analysis. Two major lignans, schizandrin (Sch) and gomisin A (Gom A), were identified and shown to induce interleukin (IL)-8, macrophage inflammatory protein-1β (MIP-1β), and granulocyte-macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) release by THP-1 cells. By reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) or quantitative real-time PCR, there was a dose-dependent increase of IL-8, MIP-1β and GM-CSF mRNA levels. Thus, Sch and Gom A from S. chinensis enhance cytokine release by THP-1 cells and this effect occurs through mRNA upregulation. Upregulation of MIP-1β and GM-CSF in particular may have clinical applications. Therefore, S. chinensis may be therapeutically beneficial by promoting humoral and cell-mediated immune responses.
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