Scope: Caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE) is an active constituent of honeybee propolis inhibiting nuclear factor (NF)-κB. The aims of our study were to provide new data on the functional relevance and mechanisms underlying the role of CAPE in regulating inflammatory processes at the epithelial interface in the gut and to determine the structure/activity relationship of CAPE.
Methods and results: CAPE significantly inhibited TNF-induced IP-10 expression in intestinal epithelial cells. Using various analogues, we demonstrated that substitution of catechol hydroxyl groups and addition of one extra hydroxyl group on ring B reversed the functional activity of CAPE to inhibit IP-10 production. The anti-inflammatory potential of CAPE was confirmed in ileal tissue explants and embryonic fibroblasts derived from TNFΔARE/+ mice. Interestingly, CAPE inhibited both TNF- and LPS-induced IP-10 production in a dose-dependent manner, independently of p38 MAPK, HO-1 and Nrf2 signaling pathways. We found that CAPE did not inhibit TNF-induced IκB phosphorylation/degradation or nuclear translocation of RelA/p65, but targeted downstream signaling events at the level of transcription factor recruitment to the gene promoter.
Conclusion: This study reveals the structure–activity effects and anti-inflammatory potential of CAPE in the intestinal epithelium.