Ulcerative colitis (UC), a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the colon. Although UC is generally treated with anti-inflammatory drugs or immunosuppressants, most of these treatments often prove to be inadequate. Rosmarinic acid (RA) is a phenolic ester included in various medicinal herbs such as Salvia miltiorrhiz and Perilla frutescens. Although RA has many biological and pharmacological activities, the anti-inflammatory effect of RA in colonic tissue remains unclear. In this study, we investigated the anti-inflammatory effects and underlying molecular mechanism of RA in mice with dextran sulphate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis. In the DSS-induced colitis model, RA significantly reduced the severity of colitis, as assessed by disease activity index (DAI) scores, colonic damage, and colon length. In addition, RA resulted in the reduction of the inflammatory-related cytokines, such as IL-6, IL-1β, and IL-22, and protein levels of COX-2 and iNOS in mice with DSS-induced colitis. Furthermore, RA effectively and pleiotropically inhibited nuclear factor-kappa B and signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 activation, and subsequently reduced the activity of pro-survival genes that depend on these transcription factors. These results demonstrate that RA has an ameliorative effect on colonic inflammation and thus a potential therapeutic role in colitis.
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