Punicalagin, a hydrolysable tannin of pomegranate juice, exhibits multiple biological effects, including inhibiting production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in macrophages. Autophagy, an intracellular self-digestion process, has been recently shown to regulate inflammatory responses. In this study, we investigated the anti-inflammatory potential of punicalagin in lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced RAW264.7 macrophages and uncovered the underlying mechanisms. Punicalagin significantly attenuated, in a concentration-dependent manner, LPS-induced release of NO and decreased pro-inflammatory cytokines TNF-α and IL-6 release at the highest concentration. We found that punicalagin inhibited NF-κB and MAPK activation in LPS-induced RAW264.7 macrophages. Western blot analysis revealed that punicalagin pre-treatment enhanced LC3II, p62 expression, and decreased Beclin1 expression in LPS-induced macrophages. MDC assays were used to determine the autophagic process and the results worked in concert with Western blot analysis. In addition, our observations indicated that LPS-induced releases of NO, TNF-α, and IL-6 were attenuated by treatment with autophagy inhibitor chloroquine, suggesting that autophagy inhibition participated in anti-inflammatory effect. We also found that punicalagin downregulated FoxO3a expression, resulting in autophagy inhibition. Overall these results suggested that punicalagin played an important role in the attenuation of LPS-induced inflammatory responses in RAW264.7 macrophages and that the mechanisms involved downregulation of the FoxO3a/autophagy signaling pathway.
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