Osteoarthritis is a relatively common disorder of articular deterioration related to cartilage damage, subchondral bone remodelling, inflammation and metabolism. Agents that can inhibit cartilage degradation and osteoclastogenesis are required for the prevention and treatment of osteoarthritis. Esculentoside A, the highest concentration triterpene saponin isolated from the root of Phytolacca esculenta, has commonly been used for the treatment of chronic bronchitis. However, the role esculentoside A plays in ameliorating osteoarthritis has not been reported. We found that esculentoside A suppresses the expression of IL-1β-induced inflammatory and metabolic factors (IL-6, IL-8, TNF-α, MMP2, MMP3 and MMP13). In addition, esculentoside A restrains osteoclast formation by inhibiting the marker gene expression of NFATc1 and c-Fos. Our results indicate that esculentoside A markedly suppresses IL-1β-induced NF-κB and MAPK signalling pathway activation in chondrocytes, and inhibits RANKL-induced osteoclast precursor generation. Finally, treatment with esculentoside A inhibits the progressive cartilage degeneration and osteoclastogenesis in osteoarthritis mouse models. In summary, these results demonstrate that esculentoside A could be a latent therapeutic reagent for the treatment of osteoarthritis.
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