Transforming growth factor β–activated kinase 1 (TAK1) is a key MAPKKK family protein in interleukin-1β (IL-1β), tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and Toll-like receptor signaling. This study was undertaken to examine the posttranslational modification of TAK1 and its therapeutic regulation in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).


The effect of TAK1, IL-1 receptor–associated kinase 1 (IRAK-1), and TNF receptor–associated factor 6 (TRAF6) inhibition was evaluated in IL-1β–stimulated human RA synovial fibroblasts (RASFs). Western blotting, immunoprecipitation, and 20S proteasome assay were used to study the ubiquitination process in RASFs. The efficacy of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a potent antiinflammatory molecule, in regulating these processes in RASFs was evaluated. Molecular docking was performed to examine the interaction of EGCG with human TAK1, IRAK-1, and TRAF6. These findings were confirmed using a rat model of adjuvant-induced arthritis (AIA).


Inhibition of TAK1, but not IRAK-1 or TRAF6, completely abrogated IL-1β–induced IL-6 and IL-8 synthesis in RASFs. EGCG inhibited TAK1 phosphorylation at Thr184/187 and occupied the C174 position, an ATP-binding site, to inhibit its kinase activity. EGCG pretreatment also inhibited K63-linked autoubiquitination of TRAF6, a posttranslational modification essential for TAK1 autophosphorylation, by forming a stable H bond at the K124 position on TRAF6. Furthermore, EGCG enhanced proteasome-associated deubiquitinase expression to rescue proteins from proteasomal degradation. Western blot analyses of joint homogenates from rats with AIA showed a significant increase in K48-linked polyubiquitination, TAK1 phosphorylation, and TRAF6 expression when compared to naive rats. Administration of EGCG (50 mg/kg/day) for 10 days ameliorated AIA in rats by reducing TAK1 phosphorylation and K48-linked polyubiquitination.


Our findings provide a rationale for targeting TAK1 for the treatment of RA with EGCG.