, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 959–966 | Cite as

Chlorophyll Revisited: Anti-inflammatory Activities of Chlorophyll a and Inhibition of Expression of TNF-α Gene by the Same

  • Appian SubramoniamEmail author
  • Velikkakathu V. Asha
  • Sadasivan Ajikumaran Nair
  • Sreejith P. Sasidharan
  • Parameswaran K. Sureshkumar
  • Krishnan Nair Rajendran
  • Devarajan Karunagaran
  • Krishnan Ramalingam


In view of the folklore use of green leaves to treat inflammation, the anti-inflammatory property of chlorophylls and their degradation products were studied. Chlorophyll a and pheophytin a (magnesium-free chlorophyll a) from fresh leaves showed potent anti-inflammatory activity against carrageenan-induced paw edema in mice and formalin-induced paw edema in rats. Chlorophyll a inhibited bacterial lipopolysaccharide-induced TNF-α (a pro-inflammatory cytokine) gene expression in HEK293 cells, but it did not influence the expression of inducible nitric acid synthase and cyclooxygenase-2 genes. Chlorophyll b only marginally inhibited both inflammation and TNF-α gene expression. But both chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b showed the same level of marginal inhibition on 12-O-tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate-induced NF-κB activation. Chlorophylls and pheophytins showed in vitro anti-oxidant activity. The study shows that chlorophyll a and its degradation products are valuable and abundantly available anti-inflammatory agents and promising for the development of phytomedicine or conventional medicine to treat inflammation and related diseases.


pheophytin a paw edema nuclear factor-κB Streblus asper Lour. Chromolaena odorata (L.) R. King & Robin 



The authors thank Dr. Rameshkumar for isolating chlorophyll a and b in pure form from spinach and Dr. Gilmore, Boston University, USA, for providing NF-κB luciferase plasmid. Dr. B. Sabulal, Dr. S. Anilkumar, and Dr. Anil John are thanked for their help in the course of this work. Mr. Santhosh Kumar G, Animal House Technician, is acknowledged for his help in animal experiments. The financial support and facilities for the study were provided by the Government of Kerala through its plan fund support to TBGRI.

Competing interests

The authors declare that there are no potential conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Appian Subramoniam
    • 1
    Email author
  • Velikkakathu V. Asha
    • 2
  • Sadasivan Ajikumaran Nair
    • 1
  • Sreejith P. Sasidharan
    • 2
  • Parameswaran K. Sureshkumar
    • 1
  • Krishnan Nair Rajendran
    • 3
  • Devarajan Karunagaran
    • 4
  • Krishnan Ramalingam
    • 4
  1. 1.Phytochemistry and Phytopharmacology DivisionTropical Botanic Garden and Research InstitutePalodeIndia
  2. 2.Rajiv Gandhi Centre for BiotechnologyPoojapuraIndia
  3. 3.Health and Research CentreKumarapuramIndia
  4. 4.Department of BiotechnologyIndian Institute of Technology MadrasChennaiIndia

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