Thymoquinone inhibits TNF-α-induced inflammation and cell adhesion in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts by ASK1 regulation

Sadiq Umar, Omar Hedaya, Anil K. Singh, Salahuddin Ahmed

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63 Scopus citations


Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) is a pro-inflammatory cytokine produced by monocytes/macrophage that plays a pathological role in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In this study, we investigate the effect of thymoquinone (TQ), a phytochemical found in Nigella sativa, in regulating TNF-α-induced RA synovial fibroblast (RA-FLS) activation. Treatment with TQ (1-5. μM) had no marked effect on the viability of human RA-FLS. Pre-treatment of TQ inhibited TNF-α-induced interleukin-6 (IL-6) and IL-8 production and ICAM-1, VCAM-1, and cadherin-11 (Cad-11) expression in RA-FLS (p. <. 0.01). Evaluation of the signaling events showed that TQ inhibited TNF-α-induced phospho-p38 and phospho-JNK expression, but had no inhibitory effect on NF-κB pathway, in RA-FLS (p. <. 0.05; n. = 4). Interestingly, we observed that selective down-regulation of TNF-α-induced phospho-p38 and phospho-JNK activation by TQ is elicited through inhibition of apoptosis-regulated signaling kinase 1 (ASK1). Furthermore, TNF-α selectively induced phosphorylation of ASK1 at Thr845 residue in RA-FLS, which was inhibited by TQ pretreatment in a dose dependent manner (p. <. 0.01). Pre-treatment of RA-FLS with ASK1 inhibitor (TC ASK10), blocked TNF-α induced expression of ICAM-1, VCAM-1, and Cad-11. Our results suggest that TNF-α-induced ASK1-p38/JNK pathway is an important mediator of cytokine synthesis and enhanced expression of adhesion molecule in RA-FLS and TQ, by selectively inhibiting this pathway, may have a potential therapeutic value in regulating tissue destruction observed in RA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-305
Number of pages7
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 5 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the NIH grant AR063104 (S.A.), the Arthritis Foundation Innovative Research Grant (S.A.), the start-up funds from Washington State University (S.A.), and the ASPET summer undergraduate research fellowship (SURF) award (O.H.). Authors also thank the National Disease Research Interchange (NDRI), Philadelphia and Co-operative Human Tissue Network (CHTN) for providing the synovial tissue for research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Inc.


  • ASK1
  • MAP kinase
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Synovial fibroblasts
  • TNF-α
  • Thymoquinone


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