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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Ginsenoside Rh1 potentiates dexamethasone’s anti-inflammatory effects for chronic inflammatory disease by reversing dexamethasone-induced resistance

Jun Li, Juan Du, Dong Liu, Binbin Cheng, Fanfu Fang, Li Weng, Chen Wang* and Changquan Ling*

Author Affiliations

Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Changhai Hospital, Second Military Medical University, 168 Changhai Road, Shanghai 200433, P.R. China

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2014, 16:R106  doi:10.1186/ar4556

Published: 1 May 2014



Acquired resistance to glucocorticoids constitutes a major clinical challenge, often overlooked in the search for compounds to improve the effect of classic steroids. We sought to unravel how a plant-original compound, ginsenoside Rh1, potentiates dexmethasone (DEX)’s potential anti-inflammation properties.


Ginsenoside Rh1 combined with DEX was applied in a short-term and long-term treatment protocol for inflammation. Its potential mechanism on anti-inflammation was explored. In addition, the effect of Rh1 on the side-effect induced by DEX was studied. Furthermore, the in vivo anti-inflammatory effects of Rh1 combined with DEX were evaluated in a collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) mice model.


Ginsenoside Rh1 potentiates DEX’s anti-inflammatory effects even after prolonged DEX treatment. Rh1 could improve the glucocorticoid receptor (GR)’s transrepression on nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) and transactivation on dual specificity protein phosphatase 1 (DUSP1), which is responsible for DEX’s anti-inflammatory effects. Parallel Western blot assay and radioligand binding analysis revealed that Rh1 could increase the expression and binding of GR. This is in sharp contrast to DEX alone, showing a direct link among prolonged treatment, decreasing GR and the abolishment of anti-inflammation. Interestingly, Rh1 does not enhance the transactivation of glucocorticoid-responsive elements (GRE) driven genes - gluconeogenic enzyme glucose-6-phosphatase (G6P) and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinasee phosphatase (PEPCK) in primary mouse hepatocytes, a mechanism partly held accountable for the metabolic side-effects. Similar results were found in CIA mice.


Rh1 could potentiate DEX’s anti-inflammatory effects and does not cause a hyperglycemic side effect. Ginsenoside Rh1 combined with DEX may be a promising candidate treatment option for chronic inflammatory diseases in need of long-term immunosuppression therapies.