Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy

, Volume 62, Issue 11, pp 1663–1673

Myeloid-derived suppressor cell function is reduced by Withaferin A, a potent and abundant component of Withania somnifera root extract

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00262-013-1470-2

Cite this article as:
Sinha, P. & Ostrand-Rosenberg, S. Cancer Immunol Immunother (2013) 62: 1663. doi:10.1007/s00262-013-1470-2


Myeloid cells play a crucial role in tumor progression. The most common tumor-infiltrating myeloid cells are myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) and tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs). These cells promote tumor growth by their inherent immune suppressive activity which is enhanced by their cross-talk. The root extract of the plant Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) (WRE) has been reported to reduce tumor growth. HPLC analysis identified Withaferin A (WA) as the most abundant constituent of WRE and led us to determine whether the anti-tumor effects of WRE and WA involve modulating MDSC and TAM activity. A prominent effect of MDSC is their production of IL-10 which increases upon cross-talk with macrophages, thus polarizing immunity to a pro-tumor type 2 phenotype. In vitro treatment with WA decreased MDSC production of IL-10 and prevented additional MDSC production of IL-10 generated by MDSC–macrophage cross-talk. Macrophage secretion of IL-6 and TNFα, cytokines that increase MDSC accumulation and function, was also reduced by in vitro treatment with WA. Much of the T-cell suppressive activity of MDSC is due to MDSC production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and WA significantly reduced MDSC production of ROS through a STAT3-dependent mechanism. In vivo treatment of tumor-bearing mice with WA decreased tumor weight, reduced the quantity of granulocytic MDSC, and reduced the ability of MDSC to suppress antigen-driven activation of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. Thus, adjunctive treatment with WA reduced myeloid cell-mediated immune suppression, polarized immunity toward a tumor-rejecting type 1 phenotype, and may facilitate the development of anti-tumor immunity.


Tumor immunology Tumor-induced immune suppression T-cell activation Immunotherapy Withaferin A Withania somnifera 

Supplementary material

262_2013_1470_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (425 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 424 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore CountyBaltimoreUSA

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