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  • The medicinal plants of the Asteraceae family are a valuable source of bioactive secondary metabolites, including polyphenols, phenolic acids, flavonoids, acetylenes, sesquiterpene lactones, triterpenes, etc. Under stressful conditions, the plants develop these secondary substances to carry out physiological tasks in plant cells. Secondary Asteraceae metabolites that are of the greatest interest to consumers are artemisinin (an anti-malarial drug from L.-sweet wormwood), steviol glycosides (an intense sweetener from Bert.-stevia), caffeic acid derivatives (with a broad spectrum of biological activities synthesized from (L.) Moench-echinacea and L.-chicory), helenalin and dihydrohelenalin (anti-inflammatory drug from L.-mountain arnica), parthenolide ("medieval aspirin" from (L.) Sch.Bip.-feverfew), and silymarin (liver-protective medicine from (L.) Gaertn.-milk thistle). The necessity to enhance secondary metabolite synthesis has arisen due to the widespread use of these metabolites in numerous industrial sectors. Elicitation is an effective strategy to enhance the production of secondary metabolites in in vitro cultures. Suitable technological platforms for the production of phytochemicals are cell suspension, shoots, and hairy root cultures. Numerous reports describe an enhanced accumulation of desired metabolites after the application of various abiotic and biotic elicitors. Elicitors induce transcriptional changes in biosynthetic genes, leading to the metabolic reprogramming of secondary metabolism and clarifying the mechanism of the synthesis of bioactive compounds. This review summarizes biotechnological investigations concerning the biosynthesis of medicinally essential metabolites in plants of the Asteraceae family after various elicitor treatments.

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  • The aim of this work was to assess the tolerability, safety, and efficacy of an ophthalmic topical formulation containing helenalin from and hyaluronic acid 0.4% (HA) in patients with mild-to-moderate Dry Eye Disease (DED) exhibiting positive Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 (MMP-9) test results. Tolerability and safety were evaluated in 24 healthy subjects. Participants were instructed to apply one drop of the formulation three times a day in the study eye, for 2 weeks, followed by a clinical follow-up of 21 days. Efficacy was studied in 48 DED patients randomized into Study (Group 1/receiving the studied formulation) or Control (Group 2/Receiving HA 0.4% eye lubricant) groups for 1 month. Assessments included an MMP-9 positivity test, conjunctival impression cytology (CIC), Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI), non-invasive film tear breakup time (NIBUT), non-invasive average breakup time (NIAvg-BUT), ocular surface staining, Schirmer's test, and meibomiography. A crossover design with an additional 1-month follow-up was applied to both groups. Healthy subjects receiving the studied formulation exhibited good tolerability and no adverse events. Regarding the efficacy study, Group 1 exhibited a statistically significant reduction in the MMP-9 positivity rate compared to Group 2 ( < 0.001). Both Group 1 and Group 2 exhibited substantial improvements in OSDI and NIBUT scores ( < 0.001). However, Group 1 demonstrated a significant improvement in NI-Avg-BUT and Schirmer's test scores ( < 0.001), whereas Group 2 did not ( > 0.05). Finally, after the crossover, the proportion of MMP-9-positive subjects in Group 1 increased from 25% to 91.6%, while Group 2 showed a significant decrease from 87.5% to 20.8%. Overall, the topical formulation containing sesquiterpene helenalin from and hyaluronic acid was well tolerated and exhibited a favorable safety profile. Our formulation reduces DED symptomatology and modulates the ocular surface inflammatory process; this is evidenced by the enhancement of CIC, the improvement of DED-related tear film status, and the reduction of the MMP-9 positivity rate.

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  • L.: Doesn't Origin Matter?

    L. (Asteraceae) has a long and successful tradition in Europe as herbal medicine. Arnica flowers (i.e., the flowerheads of ) are monographed in the European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur.), and a European Union herbal monograph exists, in which its use as traditional herbal medicine is recommended. According to this monograph, Arnica flowers (Arnicae flos Ph. Eur.) and preparations thereof may be used topically to treat blunt injuries and traumas, inflammations and rheumatic muscle and joint complaints. The main bioactive constituents are sesquiterpene lactones (STLs) of the helenanolide type. Among these, a variety of esters of helenalin and 11α,13-dihydrohelenalin with low-molecular-weight carboxylic acids, namely, acetic, isobutyric, methacrylic, methylbutyric as well as tiglic acid, represent the main constituents, in addition to small amounts of the unesterified parent STLs. A plethora of reports exist on the pharmacological activities of these STLs, and it appears unquestioned that they represent the main active principles responsible for the herbal drug's efficacy. It has been known for a long time, however, that considerable differences in the STL pattern occur between flowers from plants growing in middle or Eastern Europe with some originating from the Iberic peninsula. In the former, Helenalin esters usually predominate, whereas the latter contains almost exclusively 11α,13-Dihydrohelenalin derivatives. Differences in pharmacological potency, on the other hand, have been reported for the two subtypes of Arnica-STLs in various instances. At the same time, it has been previously proposed that one should distinguish between two subspecies of , subsp. occurring mainly in Central and Eastern Europe and subsp. in the southwestern range of the species distribution, i.e., on the Iberian Peninsula. The question hence arises whether or not the geographic origin of flowers is of any relevance for the medicinal use of the herbal drug and the pharmaceutical quality, efficacy and safety of its products and whether the chemical/pharmacological differences should not be recognized in pharmacopoeia monographs. The present review attempts to answer these questions based on a summary of the current state of botanical, phytochemical and pharmacological evidence.

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  • is a valuable plant with high demand on the pharmaceutical and cosmetic market due to the presence of helenalin (H) and 11α, 13-dihydrohelenalin (DH) sesquiterpene lactones (SLs), with many applications and anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, analgesic and other properties. Despite the great importance of these compounds for the protection of the plant and their medicinal value, the content of these lactones and the profile of the compounds present within individual elements of florets and flower heads have not been studied so far, and attempts to localize these compounds in flower tissues have also not been conducted. The three studied taxa synthesize SLs only in the aerial parts of plants, and the highest content of these substances was found in cv. Arbo; it was lower in wild species, and a very small amount of H was produced by . Analysis of dissected fragments of whole inflorescences revealed a specific distribution pattern of these compounds. The lactones content in single florets increased from the top of the corolla to the ovary, with the pappus calyx being a significant source of their production. Histochemical tests for terpenes and methylene ketones indicated the colocalization of lactones with inulin vacuoles.

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  • The telomerase gene is overexpressed in the majority of tumors and cancers compared to normal and healthy cells, and on the other hand, this enzymatic protein is overactive, therefore, the telomerase enzyme is considered a primary target for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes in most cancers. This has been hypothesized that Helenalin has anti-telomerase activity in a wide range of cancers and Tumor tissues. In this study, we investigated the inhibitory effect of helenalin extract on telomerase gene expression in the T47D breast cancer cell line.

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  • Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) is classified as a neglected tropical disease by the World Health Organization. As the standard drugs for the treatment of this disease suffer from severe unwanted effects, new effective and safe therapeutic options are required. In our previous work, Arnica tincture showed promising antileishmanial effects in vitro and in vivo. For the potential treatment of human CL patients with Arnica tincture, data on the pharmacokinetic properties of the bioactive, antileishmanial compounds (the sesquiterpene lactone (STL) helenalin and its derivatives) are needed. Therefore, we studied the in vivo absorption of the bioactive compounds after the dermal application of Arnica tincture in rats. Moreover, we analyzed the blood plasma, urine, and feces of the animals by ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography coupled to high-resolution mass spectrometry (UHPLC-HRMS). Although the majority (84%) of the applied STLs (1.0 mg) were absorbed, the concentrations in the plasma, urine, and feces were below the limit of detection (0.3 ng/mL) in the samples for UHPLC-HRMS analysis. This result may be explained by extensive metabolism and slow permeation accompanied by the accumulation of STLs in the skin, as described in our previous work. Accordingly, the plasma concentration of STLs after the topical application of Arnica tincture was very far from a dose where toxicity could be expected. Additionally, tests for corrosive or irritant activity as well as acute and repeated-dose dermal toxicity did not show any positive results after the administration of the amounts of Arnica tincture that would be needed for the treatment of CL. Consequently, in the treatment of CL patients with Arnica tincture, no toxic effects are expected, other than the known sensitization potential of the STLs.

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  • C/EBPβ, a crucial transcription factor, regulates innate immunity and inflammatory responses. However, the role played by C/EBPβ in alveolar macrophage (AM) inflammatory responses remains unknown. This study aimed to investigate the role and mechanism of C/EBPβ in alveolar macrophages (AMs) from the transcriptional level and to search for natural compounds targeting C/EBPβ.

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  • Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α is involved in the pathogenesis of cardiac injury, inflammation, and apoptosis. It is a crucial pro-inflammatory cytokine in many heart disorders, including chronic heart failure and ischemic heart disease, contributing to cardiac remodeling and dysfunction. The implication of TNF-α in inflammatory responses in the heart has been indicated to be mediated through the induction of C-C Motif Chemokine Ligand 20 (CCL20). However, the detailed mechanisms of TNF-α-induced CCL20 upregulation in human cardiac fibroblasts (HCFs) are not completely defined. We demonstrated that in HCFs, TNF-α induced CCL20 mRNA expression and promoter activity leading to an increase in the secretion of CCL20. TNF-α-mediated responses were attenuated by pretreatment with TNFR1 antibody, the inhibitor of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) (AG1478), p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) (p38 inhibitor VIII, p38i VIII), c-Jun amino N-terminal kinase (JNK)1/2 (SP600125), nuclear factor kappaB (NF-κB) (helenalin), or forkhead box O (FoxO)1 (AS1841856) and transfection with siRNA of TNFR1, EGFR, p38α, JNK2, p65, or FoxO1. Moreover, TNF-α markedly induced EGFR, p38 MAPK, JNK1/2, FoxO1, and NF-κB p65 phosphorylation which was inhibited by their respective inhibitors in these cells. In addition, TNF-α-enhanced binding of FoxO1 or p65 to the CCL20 promoter was inhibited by p38i VIII, SP600125, and AS1841856, or helenalin, respectively. Accordingly, in HCFs, our findings are the first to clarify that TNF-α-induced CCL20 secretion is mediated through a TNFR1-dependent EGFR/p38 MAPK and JNK1/2/FoxO1 or NF-κB cascade. We demonstrated that TNFR1-derived EGFR transactivation is involved in the TNF-α-induced responses in these cells. Understanding the regulation of CCL20 expression by TNF-α on HCFs may provide a potential therapeutic strategy in cardiac inflammatory disorders.

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  • The inflammation of the airway and lung could be triggered by upregulation cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 and prostaglandin E (PGE) induced by various proinflammatory factors. COX-2 induction by thrombin has been shown to play a vital role in various inflammatory diseases. However, in human tracheal smooth muscle cells (HTSMCs), how thrombin enhanced the levels of COX-2/PGE is not completely characterized. Thus, in this study, the levels of COX-2 expression and PGE synthesis induced by thrombin were determined by Western blot, promoter-reporter assay, real-time PCR, and ELISA kit. The various signaling components involved in the thrombin-mediated responses were differentiated by transfection with siRNAs and selective pharmacological inhibitors. The role of NF-B was assessed by a chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay, immunofluorescent staining, as well as Western blot. Our results verified that thrombin markedly triggered PGE secretion via COX-2 upregulation which were diminished by the inhibitor of thrombin (PPACK), PAR1 (SCH79797), G protein (GPA2), G protein (GPA2A), PKC (Gö6976), p38 MAPK (SB202190), JNK1/2 (SP600125), MEK1/2 (U0126), or NF-B (helenalin) and transfection with siRNA of PAR1, G , G , PKC, JNK2, p38, p42, or p65. Moreover, thrombin induced PAR1-dependent PKC phosphorylation in HTSMCs. We also observed that thrombin induced p38 MAPK, JNK1/2, and p42/p44 MAPK activation through a PAR1/PKC pathway. Thrombin promoted phosphorylation of NF-B p65, leading to nuclear translocation and binding to the COX-2 promoter element to enhance promoter activity, which was reduced by Gö6976, SP600125, SB202190, or U0126. These findings supported that COX-2/PGE expression triggered by thrombin was engaged in PAR1/G or G/PKC/MAPK-dependent NF-B activation in HTSMCs.

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  • Arnica tincture is a traditional herbal medicine used to treat blunt injuries, e.g., bruises and squeezes. In addition, a potential new use in the treatment of cutaneous leishmaniasis is currently under investigation. Therefore, detailed information about the dermal absorption of the tincture and especially its bioactive constituents, sesquiterpene lactones (STLs) of the helenalin- and 11α,13-dihydrohelenalin type, is mandatory. Consequently, this article reports on dermal absorption studies of Arnica tincture using diffusion cells and porcine skin as well as two human skin samples with different permeability. The amounts of STLs on the skin surfaces, in skin extracts and in the receptor fluids were quantified by ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography with high-resolution mass spectrometry (UHPLC-HRMS). It was found that Arnica STLs permeated into the receptor fluid already 4 h after the application, but the amount was rather low. Within 48 h, a maximum of 8.4%, 14.6% and 36.4% of STLs permeated through porcine skin, human skin A (trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) = 11.518 g·m·h) and the more permeable human skin B (TEWL = 17.271 g·m·h), respectively. The majority of STLs was absorbed (penetrated into the skin; 97.6%, 97.8% and 99.3%) after 48 h but a huge portion could not be extracted from skin and is expected to be irreversibly bound to skin proteins. To better visualize the analytes in different skin layers, a fluorescence-labeled STL, helenalin 3,4-dimethoxycinnamate, was synthesized. Fluorescence microscopic images depict an accumulation of the fluorescent derivative in the epidermis. For the treatment of local, cutaneous complaints, an enrichment of the bioactive substances in the skin may be considered beneficial.

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