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Anti-inflammatory properties of N-acetylcysteine on lipopolysaccharide-activated macrophages

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Innate immune cells play a role in modulating host immune response. Part of the macrophage inflammatory response is the release of an array of inflammatory cytokines, important molecules during the development of innate and adaptative immunity. Several antioxidant agents have been used in the control of the inflammatory response.


To evaluate the anti-inflammatory effect of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) on the expression and secretion of inflammatory cytokines and interleukin (IL)-10 in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-activated THP-1 macrophages under mild oxidative conditions.


Macrophages were activated by LPS (0.1 and 1 μg/ml) for up to 24 h. The effect of 15 mM NAC was evaluated at 2, 4, 6 and 24 h. mRNA expression of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8 and IL-10 was assessed by real time PCR. The expression of the corresponding cytokines plus IL-12p70 was analyzed using a bead array for flow cytometry.


NAC inhibits the inflammatory cytokines TNFα, IL-1β and IL-6 in LPS-activated macrophages under mild oxidative conditions. IL-10 mRNA and protein expression are strongly downregulated in NAC-treated cells, which may further modify the inflammatory cytokine profile.


NAC modulates immune functions during the inflammatory response.

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The authors would like to thank María Antonia Baltrons for her technical support in the intracellular ROS evaluation and Olga Pol for her contribution to the statistical analysis. This work was supported by the Network of Excellence (EMBIC) from the European Community. Ref. LSHM-CT-2004-512040 (2004–2008).

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The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest associated with this manuscript.

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Correspondence to J. R. Palacio.

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Responsible Editor: Graham Wallace.

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Palacio, J.R., Markert, U.R. & Martínez, P. Anti-inflammatory properties of N-acetylcysteine on lipopolysaccharide-activated macrophages. Inflamm. Res. 60, 695–704 (2011).

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