Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Arthritis Research & Therapy and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

TNF/TNFR signal transduction pathway-mediated anti-apoptosis and anti-inflammatory effects of sodium ferulate on IL-1β-induced rat osteoarthritis chondrocytes in vitro

Jun Qin12, Liang Shang13, An-song Ping2, Jing Li1, Xiao-jun Li1, Hong Yu3, Jacques Magdalou4, Liao-bin Chen2* and Hui Wang1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Pharmacology, Basic Medical School, Wuhan University, Donghu Road 169, Wuhan 430071, China

2 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Zhongnan Hospital, Wuhan University, Donghu Road 169, Wuhan 430071, China

3 Department of Biochemistry, Basic Medical School, Wuhan University, Donghu Road 169, Wuhan 430071, China

4 UMR7561 CNRS-UHP, Laboratoire de Physiopathologie et Pharmacologie Articulaires, Faculté de Médecine, Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy Cedex, Lorraine 54505, France

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012, 14:R242  doi:10.1186/ar4085

Published: 7 November 2012



Sodium ferulate (SF) is a natural component of traditional Chinese herbs. Our previous study shows that SF has a protective effect on osteoarthritis (OA). The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of SF on the TNF/TNF receptor (TNFR) signal transduction pathway of rat OA chondrocytes.


Primary rat articular chondrocytes were co-treated with IL-1β and SF. Chondrocyte apoptosis was assessed by fluorescein isothiocyanate-annexin V/propidium iodide assay. The PCR array was used to screen the expression of 84 key genes involved in apoptosis. The release of TNFα and prostaglandin E2 were analyzed by ELISA. Expressions of proteins were assessed by western blotting. The activity of NF-κB was determined by electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA). Gene expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) was evaluated by real-time quantitative PCR. The nitric oxide content was measured with the Griess method.


After treatment with SF, the apoptosis rate of chondrocytes significantly attenuated (P < 0.01). Results of the apoptosis PCR array suggested that mRNA expression of some core proteins in the TNF/TNFR pathway showed valuable regulation. The protein expressions of TNFα, TNFR-1, TNF receptor-associated death domain, caspase-8 and caspase-3 were prevented by SF in a concentration-dependent manner. SF also inhibited activities of caspase-8 and caspase-3 compared with the OA model control (P < 0.01). TNF receptor-associated factor-2 expression, phosphorylations of inhibitor of NF-κB kinase (IKK) subunits alpha and beta, and NF-κB inhibitor, alpha (IκBα) were all concentration-dependently suppressed by SF treatment. The results of EMSA showed that SF inhibited the activity of NF-κB. In addition, the expressions of cycloxygenase-2 and iNOS and the contents of prostaglandin E2 and NO were attenuated with the treatment of SF (P < 0.01).


SF has anti-apoptosis and anti-inflammatory effects on an OA model induced by IL-1β in vitro, which were due to inhibitory actions on the caspase-dependent apoptosis pathway and the IKK/NF-κB signal transduction pathway of the TNF/TNFR pathway.