Silibinin polarizes Th1/Th2 immune responses through the inhibition of immunostimulatory function of dendritic cells


  • Jun Sik Lee and Sang Gap Kim have contributed equally to this work.


Silibinin is the primary active compound in silymarin. It has been demonstrated to exert anti-carcinogenic effects and hepato-protective effects. However, the effects of silibinin on the maturation and immunostimulatory activities exhibited by dendritic cells (DCs) remain, for the most part, unknown. In this study, we have attempted to determine whether silibinin can influence surface molecule expression, dextran uptake, cytokine production, capacity to induce T-cell differentiation, and the signaling pathways underlying these phenomena in murine bone marrow-derived DCs. Silibinin was shown to significantly suppress the expression of CD80, CD86, MHC class I, and MHC class II in the DCs, and was also associated with impairments of LPS-induced IL-12 expression in the DCs. Silibinin-treated DCs proved highly efficient with regard to Ag capture via mannose receptor-mediated endocytosis. Silibinin also inhibited the LPS-induced activation of MAPKs and the nuclear translocation of the NF-κB p65 subunit. Additionally, silibinin-treated DCs evidenced an impaired induction of Th1 response, and a normal cell-mediated immune response. These findings provide new insight into the immunopharmacological functions of silibinin, especially with regard to their impact on the DCs. These findings expand our current understanding of the immunopharmacological functions of silibinin, and may prove useful in the development of therapeutic adjuvants for acute and chronic DC-associated diseases. J. Cell. Physiol. 210: 385–397, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.