Antrodia cinnamomea (A. cinnamomea), a popular medicinal mushroom in Taiwan, is widely used to prevent or treat liver diseases. Systematic studies on the anti-inflammatory effect of A. cinnamomea and its molecular mechanisms have not yet been fully investigated. HPLC fingerprint analysis identified seven ergostane-type triterpenoids from A. cinnamomea water extract (ACW), including high amounts of Antcin K (AC), Antcin C, Antcin H, Dehydrosulphurenic acid, Antcin B, Antcin A and Dehydroeburicoic acid. Here, we explored the effects and mechanisms of ACW and the highest content AC on N-nitrosodiethylamine (DEN) induced liver inflammation, fibrosis and carcinogenesis in rats. In the in vitro study, we measured how ACW and AC dose-dependently scavenged O2-., H2O2 and HOCl by a chemiluminescence analyzer. In the in vivo experiment, oral intake ACW and AC significantly inhibited DEN-enhanced hepatocellular inflammation, fibrosis and carcinoma by pathologic observation, the elevated bile and liver reactive oxygen species (ROS) amounts, plasma γ-glutamyl transpeptidase, and oxidative stress including 3-nitrotyrosine, 4-hydroxynonenal and Kuppfer cell infiltration (ED-1 stains) in the inflammatory livers. DEN enhanced nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) translocation, whereas ACW and AC suppressed DEN-enhanced NF-κB translocation through the inhibition of its upstream signaling of p85/phosphoinositide-3-kinase, mitogen activated protein kinase and CYP2E1 expression. In conclusion, DEN can induce hepatocellular inflammation, fibrosis and carcinoma by increasing NF-κB translocation to the nucleus, and oxidative injury. ACW and its active component, Antcin K, counteract DEN-induced hepatic injury and inflammation by the protective and therapeutic mechanisms of a direct scavenging ROS activity and an upregulation of anti-oxidant defense mechanisms.
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