Thymoquinone is a novel ligand which activates Neu4 sialidase to promote a pro-inflammatory response
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Thymoquinone (TQ), a volatile oil component of black seed oil (derived from Nigella sativa), has been shown to have various biological effects including disease treatment and prevention. TQ is believed to share similar properties to the benzoquinones already in use as therapeutic drugs. Based on previous reports on the anti-inflammatory properties of black seed oil and TQ, it was originally hypothesized that TQ would inhibit lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced cellular sialidase activity in an anti-inflammatory manner. Sialidase activity was tested on live mouse bone marrow derived primary macrophage cells, BMC-2 macrophage cells, human embryonic kidney epithelial (HEK293) cells and human fibroblast cells using an assay that measures the cleavage of the sialidase specific fluorescent substrate 2’-(4-methylumbelliferyl)-α-DN-acetylneuraminic acid (4-MUNANA). The cleavage of 4-MUNANA causes the release of free 4-methylumbelliferone, which fluoresces at 450nm (blue) after excitation at 365nm. Unexpectedly, TQ induced sialidase activation in all three cell lines and wild type primary macrophage cells. TQ was unable to induce sialidase activity in primary macrophage cells isolated from Neu4 knockout mice suggesting that the TQ activates Neu4 sialidase enzyme. TQ-induced sialidase activity in these live cells was found to occur through intermediate GPCR-associated guanine nucleotide Gαi subunit and matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP9) by using specific inhibitors. In addition, TQ was found to induce sialidase activity in Toll-like receptor-deficient HEK293 cells. These latter data suggested that TQ may be activating GPCR Gαi and MMP9 signaling associated with Neu4 sialidase independent of TLRs. It is proposed that TQ-induced sialidase activity may activate Toll-like receptors in macrophage cells and the subsequent production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the absence of LPS. Immunocytochemical staining of BMC-2 cells shows that TQ induced NFκB activation. NFκB activation was confirmed with electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) and western immunoblotting techniques. Cytokine arrays were used to test the pro-inflammatory cytokine response induced in mice by 5 hour treatment of TQ, compared to LPS. Mice treated with TQ exhibited an increase in IL-1β, IL-6 and TNF-α production, similar to LPS treatment. Taken together, the findings in these studies suggest that TQ is a novel ligand for Neu4 sialidase activation which consequently induces pro-inflammatory cytokine responses.