5-Hydroxyoxindole is a urinary metabolite of indole that exhibits antioxidant activity. In the present study, we found that a 5-hydroxyoxindole derivative (5-HI) significantly inhibited LPS-induced inflammatory effects in the murine macrophage cell line, RAW264.7. 5-HI induced the expression of the transcription factor, Nrf2, which is typically ubiquitinated by Keap1, an adaptor component of the ubiquitin E3 ligase complex, resulting in its proteasomal degradation. By utilizing Keap1−/− MEFs reconstituted with Keap1 mutants harboring substitutions in their major cysteine residues, we clarified the importance of Cys151 in Keap1 as a sensor for 5-HI in the induction of Nrf2 expression. Furthermore, 5-HI induced the activation of the MKK3/6-p38 pathway, which is required for the transcriptional activation of Nrf2. The knockdown of Nrf2 enhanced the LPS-induced expression of inflammatory mediators, including iNOS, NO, and CCL2, and effectively repressed the inhibitory effects of 5-HI on their expression. Although 5-HI and antioxidant N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) both reduced LPS-induced ROS generation, the treatment with NAC did not affect the LPS-induced expression of inflammatory mediators, suggesting that the anti-inflammatory activity of 5-HI mediated by Nrf2 is independent of redox control. Furthermore, when injected into mice with 5-HI, the expression of Nrf2 was significantly increased, and the LPS-induced mRNA expression of CXCL1, CCL2, TNFα and IL-6 were remarkably inhibited in the kidneys, liver, and lungs, and the production of these cytokines in serum was effectively reduced. Collectively, these results suggest that 5-HI has potential in the treatment of inflammatory diseases through the activation of Nrf2.
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