Journal of Natural Medicines

, Volume 73, Issue 2, pp 419–430 | Cite as

Anti-inflammatory effects of naturally occurring retinoid X receptor agonists isolated from Sophora tonkinensis Gagnep. via retinoid X receptor/liver X receptor heterodimers

  • Wei Wang
  • Ken-ichi Nakashima
  • Takao Hirai
  • Makoto InoueEmail author
Original Paper


Retinoid X receptor (RXR) ligands have a wide range of beneficial effects in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Recently accumulated evidence suggests that early neuroinflammation may be a therapeutic target for AD treatment. We therefore investigated the anti-inflammatory effects of the prenylated flavanoids SPF1 and SPF2, which were previously isolated from root of Sophora tonkinensis and identified as potent ligands for RXR, and potential mechanisms involved. SPF1 and SPF2 efficiently reduced interleukin (IL)-1β messenger RNA (mRNA) and IL-6 mRNA levels in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated and tumor necrosis factor-α-stimulated RAW264.7 cells, whereas SPF3—which has a structure similar to SPF1 and SPF2 but no RXR ligand activity—did not exhibit such effects. Intriguingly, the liver X receptor (LXR) ligand T0901317 reduced proinflammatory cytokine mRNA levels, and these effects were potentiated by SPF1. With regard to the mechanism underlying the anti-inflammatory effects, SPF1 induced significant amounts of activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3) mRNA and protein, and this effect was potentiated by T0901317. SPF1 also reduced translocation of nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) into nuclei. The production of proinflammatory cytokines was significantly inhibited by SPF1, and this effect was primarily exerted via RXR/LXR heterodimers. The effects of SPF1 may partly depend on the induction of ATF3, which may bind to the p65 subunit of NF-κB, resulting in reduced translocation of NF-κB into nuclei and reduced NF-κB transcription. Although inflammatory effects mediated by RXR/LXR heterodimers have not been thoroughly investigated, the above-described results shed light on the mechanism of the anti-inflammatory effect via RXR/LXR heterodimer.

Graphical abstract


Activating transcription factor 3 Antiinflammation Liver X receptor Naturally occurring agonist Retinoid X receptor RXR/LXR heterodimer 



This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI grant no. JP17K08352. We thank Edanz Group ( for editing a draft of this manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© The Japanese Society of Pharmacognosy and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wei Wang
    • 1
  • Ken-ichi Nakashima
    • 1
  • Takao Hirai
    • 1
  • Makoto Inoue
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology of Natural Compounds, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical SciencesAichi Gakuin UniversityNagoyaJapan

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