A cell permeable peptide inhibitor of NFAT inhibits macrophage cytokine expression and ameliorates experimental colitis

Houda Z. Elloumi, Nitsan Maharshak, Kavitha N. Rao, Taku Kobayashi, Hyungjin S. Ryu, Marcus Mühlbauer, Fengling Li, Christian Jobin, Scott E. Plevy

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46 Scopus citations


Nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) plays a critical role in the development and function of immune and non-immune cells. Although NFAT is a central transcriptional regulator of T cell cytokines, its role in macrophage specific gene expression is less defined. Previous work from our group demonstrated that NFAT regulates Il12b gene expression in macrophages. Here, we further investigate NFAT function in murine macrophages and determined the effects of a cell permeable NFAT inhibitor peptide 11R-VIVIT on experimental colitis in mice. Treatment of bone marrow derived macrophages (BMDMs) with tacrolimus or 11R-VIVIT significantly inhibited LPS and LPS plus IFN-γ induced IL-12 p40 mRNA and protein expression. IL-12 p70 and IL-23 secretion were also decreased. NFAT nuclear translocation and binding to the IL-12 p40 promoter was reduced by NFAT inhibition. Experiments in BMDMs from IL-10 deficient (Il10 -/-) mice demonstrate that inhibition of IL-12 expression by 11R-VIVIT was independent of IL-10 expression. To test its therapeutic potential, 11R-VIVIT was administered systemically to Il10 -/- mice with piroxicam-induced colitis. 11R-VIVIT treated mice demonstrated significant improvement in colitis compared to mice treated with an inactive peptide. Moreover, decreased spontaneous secretion of IL-12 p40 and TNF in supernatants from colon explant cultures was demonstrated. In summary, NFAT, widely recognized for its role in T cell biology, also regulates important innate inflammatory pathways in macrophages. Selective blocking of NFAT via a cell permeable inhibitory peptide is a promising therapeutic strategy for the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere34172
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
StatePublished - 27 Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney DiseasesR01DK054452


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