Interferon regulatory factor (IRF)-3 is known to have a critical role in viral and bacterial innate immune responses by regulating the production of type I interferon (IFN). Thymoquinone (TQ) is a compound derived from black cumin (Nigella sativa
L.) and is known to regulate immune responses by affecting transcription factors associated with inflammation, including nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) and activator protein-1 (AP-1). However, the role of TQ in the IRF-3 signaling pathway has not been elucidated. In this study, we explored the molecular mechanism of TQ-dependent regulation of enzymes in IRF-3 signaling pathways using the lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated murine macrophage-like RAW264.7 cell line. TQ decreased mRNA expression of the interferon genes IFN-α
in these cells. This inhibition was due to its suppression of the transcriptional activation of IRF-3, as shown by inhibition of IRF-3 PRD (III-I) luciferase activity as well as the phosphorylation pattern of IRF-3 in the immunoblotting experiment. Moreover, TQ targeted the autophosphorylation of TANK-binding kinase 1 (TBK1), an upstream key enzyme responsible for IRF-3 activation. Taken together, these findings suggest that TQ can downregulate IRF-3 activation via inhibition of TBK1, which would subsequently decrease the production of type I IFN. TQ also regulated IRF-3, one of the inflammatory transcription factors, providing a novel insight into its anti-inflammatory activities.
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