In vitro and in vivo screening of wild bitter melon leaf for anti-inflammatory activity against cutibacterium acnes

Lu Te Chuang, Ya Hsin Shih, Wen Cheng Huang, Lie Chwen Lin, Chin Hsu, Jong Ho Chyuan, Tsung Hsien Tsai*, Po Jung Tsai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Cutibacterium acnes (formerly Propionibacterium acnes) is a key pathogen involved in the development and progression of acne inflammation. The numerous bioactive properties of wild bitter melon (WBM) leaf extract and their medicinal applications have been recognized for many years. In this study, we examined the suppressive effect of a methanolic extract (ME) of WBM leaf and fractionated components thereof on live C. acnes-induced in vitro and in vivo inflammation. Following methanol extraction of WBM leaves, we confirmed anti-inflammatory properties of ME in C. acnes-treated human THP-1 monocyte and mouse ear edema models. Using a bioassay-monitored isolation approach and a combination of liquid–liquid extraction and column chromatography, the ME was then separated into n-hexane, ethyl acetate, n-butanol and water-soluble fractions. The hexane fraction exerted the most potent anti-inflammatory effect, suppressing C. acnes-induced interleukin-8 (IL-8) production by 36%. The ethanol-soluble fraction (ESF), which was separated from the n-hexane fraction, significantly inhibited C. acnes-induced activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-mediated cellular IL-8 production. Similarly, the ESF protected against C. acnes-stimulated mouse ear swelling, as measured by ear thickness (20%) and biopsy weight (23%). Twenty-four compounds in the ESF were identified using gas chromatograph–mass spectrum (GC/MS) analysis. Using co-cultures of C. acnes and THP-1 cells, β-ionone, a compound of the ESF, reduced the production of IL-1β and IL-8 up to 40% and 18%, respectively. β-ionone also reduced epidermal microabscess, neutrophilic infiltration and IL-1β expression in mouse ear. We also found evidence of the presence of anti-inflammatory substances in an unfractionated phenolic extract of WBM leaf, and demonstrated that the ESF is a potential anti-inflammatory agent for modulating in vitro and in vivo C. acnes-induced inflammatory responses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4277
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Sept


  • Anti-inflammation
  • Cutibacterium acnes
  • Wild bitter melon (WBM)
  • β-ionone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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