Inflammatory response and cell death in hepatocytes are hallmarks of chronic liver disease, and, therefore, can be effective therapeutic targets. Neurotropin® (NTP) is a drug widely used in Japan and China to treat chronic pain. Although NTP has been demonstrated to suppress chronic pain through the descending pain inhibitory system, the action mechanism of NTP remains elusive. We hypothesize that NTP functions to suppress inflammatory pathways, thereby attenuating disease progression. In the present study, we investigated whether NTP suppresses inflammatory signaling and cell death pathways induced by interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα) in hepatocytes. NTP suppressed nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) activation induced by IL-1β and TNFα assessed by using hepatocytes isolated from NF-κB-green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter mice and an NF-κB-luciferase reporter system. The expression of NF-κB target genes, Il6, Nos2, Cxcl1, ccl5 and Cxcl2 induced by IL-1β and TNFα was suppressed after NTP treatment. We also found that NTP suppressed the JNK phosphorylation induced by IL-1β and TNFα. Because JNK activation contributes to hepatocyte death, we determined that NTP treatment suppressed hepatocyte death induced by IL-1b and TNFa in combination with actinomycin D. Taken together, our data demonstrate that NTP attenuates IL-1β and TNFα-mediated inflammatory cytokine expression and cell death in hepatocytes through the suppression of NF-κB and JNK. The results from the present study suggest that NTP may become a preventive or therapeutic strategy for alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in which NF-κB and JNK are thought to take part.
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