Background and purpose: Obovatol isolated from the medicinal herb Magnolia obovata exhibits a variety of biological activities. Here, the effect of obovatol and its mechanism of action on microglial activation, neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration were investigated.
Experimental approach: In microglial BV-2 cells stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS), we measured nitric oxide (NO) and cytokine production, and activation of intracellular signalling pathways by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and Western blots. Cell death was assayed in co-cultures of activated microglia (with bacterial LPS) and neurons and in LPS-induced neuroinflammation in mice in vivo.
Key results: Obovatol inhibited microglial NO production with an IC50 value of 10 µM. Obovatol also inhibited microglial expression of proinflammatory cytokines and inducible nitric-oxide synthase, which was accompanied by the inhibition of multiple signalling pathways such as nuclear factor kappa B, signal transducers and activators of transcription 1, and mitogen-activated protein kinases. In addition, obovatol protected cultured neurons from microglial toxicity and inhibited neuroinflammation in mice in vivo. One molecular target of obovatol in microglia was peroxiredoxin 2 (Prx2), identified by affinity chromatography and mass spectrometry. Obovatol enhanced the reactive oxygen species (ROS)-scavenging activity of Prx2 in vitro, thereby suppressing proinflammatory signalling pathways of microglia where ROS plays an important role.
Conclusions and implications: Obovatol is not only a useful chemical tool that can be used to investigate microglial signalling, but also a promising drug candidate against neuroinflammatory diseases. Furthermore, our results indicate that Prx2 is a novel drug target that can be exploited for the therapeutic modulation of neuroinflammatory signalling.