Atomic force microscopy technique used for assessment of the anti-arthritic effect of licochalcone A via suppressing NF-κB activation.
Biomed Pharmacother. 2018 Jul ;103:1592-1601. Epub 2018 May 7. PMID: 29864947
Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is appropriately applied to the examination of hard surfaces and soft samples with extremely high resolution and ultrasensitive force, which cannot be obtained by other imaging techniques, including optical and electron microscopy. In the current study, AFM was employed to evaluate the anti-arthritic effect of licochalcone A (LCA), a flavonoid isolated from the root of Chinese medicinal herb Glycyrrhiza inflate, on rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASFs) at the nanoscale for the first time. The morphology, ultrastructure and stiffness of RASFs was modified by LCA as determined by AFM, suggesting that LCA most likely exerts an anti-arthritic effect based on the key role of RASFs in the progression of RA. Further studies showed that the inhibitory effect of LCA on IκBα phosphorylation and degradation as well as on p65 nuclear translocation and phosphorylation contributed to altering the morphology, ultrastructure and stiffness of the RASF membrane. Interestingly, IKKβ phosphorylation was not detectable in RASFs, indicating that LCA altered the morphology, ultrastructure and stiffness of the RASF membrane by inhibiting NF-κB activation independent of IKKβ phosphorylation. Antigen-induced arthritis (AIA) was established in Sprague Dawley (SD) rats to validate the anti-arthritic effect of LCA, and LCA significantly decreased both the arthritis scores and paw swelling in the AIA rats, suggesting that LCA inhibits the progression and development of arthritis in vivo. Collectively, AFM provides evidence at the nanoscale to predict the anti-arthritic effect of drugs on RASFs, and LCA should be further investigated as a candidate agent for the treatment of arthritis.