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SH479, a Betulinic Acid Derivative, Ameliorates Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis by Regulating the T Helper 17/Regulatory T Cell Balance.

Li, J;Jing, J;Bai, Y;Li, Z;Xing, R;Tan, B;Ma, X;Qiu, WW;Du, C;Du, B;Yang, F;Tang, J;Siwko, S;Liu, M;Chen, H;Luo, J;

CD4(+) T helper cells, especially T helper 17 (TH17) cells, combined with immune regulatory network dysfunction, play key roles in autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis (MS). Betulinic acid (BA), a natural pentacyclic triterpenoid, has been reported to be involved in anti-inflammation, in particular having an inhibitory effect on proinflammatory cytokine interleukin 17 (IL-17) and interferon- (IFN-) production. In this study, we screened BA derivatives and found a BA derivative, SH479, that had a greater inhibitory effect on TH17 differentiation. Our further analysis showed that SH479 had a greater inhibitory effect on TH17 and TH1, and a more stimulatory effect on regulatory T (Treg) cells. To evaluate the effects of SH479 on autoimmune diseases in vivo, we employed the extensively used MS mouse model experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Our results showed that SH479 ameliorated clinical and histologic signs of EAE in both prevention and therapeutic protocols by regulating the TH17/Treg balance. SH479 dose-dependently reduced splenic lymphocyte proinflammatory factors and increased anti-inflammatory factors. Moreover, SH479 specifically inhibited splenic lymphocyte viability from EAE mice but not normal splenic lymphocyte viability. At the molecular level, SH479 inhibited TH17 differentiation by regulating signal transducer and activator of transcription-3 (STAT3) phosphorylation, DNA binding activity, and recruitment to the Il-17a promoter in CD4(+) T cells. Furthermore, SH479 promoted the STAT5 signaling pathway and inhibited the nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-B) signaling pathway. Together, our data demonstrated that SH479 ameliorated EAE by regulating the TH17/Treg balance through inhibiting the STAT3 and NF-B pathways while activating the STAT5 pathway, suggesting that SH479 is a potential novel drug candidate for autoimmune diseases including MS.