Background: Glaucocalyxin B (Gla B) is a type of sesquiterpenoids. At present, there are rare studies on the pharmacological effects and targets of sesquiterpenoids, while multiple sesquiterpenoids have good anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, in this study, we aimed to investigate the mechanism of Gla B on macrophages and rheumatoid arthritis.

Methods: LPS/IFN-γ was used to induce M1 polarization of synovial macrophage (SMG) in vitro, followed by Gla B pretreatment (5 μM and 15 μM). Afterwards, flow cytometry was performed to detect the proportion of M1 cells (F4/80+CD86+), enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was used to determine the expression levels of M1 cell markers (TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6, iNOS and IL-12) as well as M2 cell markers (IL-10 and TGF- β1), immunofluorescence (IF) staining was utilized to measure the expression of CD86, the level of ROS was assessed by probe and Western blot was conducted to detect the expression of P65 and p-P65. M1 polarization was detected in SMG cells with P65 silencing after 15 μM Gla B intervention. The culture medium from M1 cell was used to culture cartilage cells in vitro, followed by detection of cartilage cell injury. In animal models, collagen antibodies and LPS were combined to induce RA mouse model. Afterwards, H and E staining was performed to detect pathological changes in mouse joint synovium, safranin O-fast green staining was used to determine cartilage injury, and immunohistochemistry was utilized to detect CD86 and P65 expression. Small molecule-protein docking and co-immunoprecipitation (Co-IP) were used to verify the targeted binding relationship between Gal B and P65.

Results: LPS and IFN-γ could induce M1 polarization in SMG. Gal B could inhibit M1 polarization, decrease the levels of TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6, iNOS and IL-12, inhibit the expression of P65 and p-P65 while did not affect the expression of IL-10 or TGF-β1. Gal B had no significant effect in SMG cells with P65 silencing. The small molecule-protein docking and Co-IP both showed that Gal B had a targeted binding relationship with P65, and Gal B could inhibit joint injury and inflammation in mice.

Conclusion: Gal B could target the P65 protein. Moreover, Gal B could inhibit the inflammatory injury of articular cartilage in RA by regulating M1 polarization of SMG through inhibiting the NF-κB signaling.