Silymarin modulates catabolic cytokine expression through Sirt1 and SOX9 in human articular chondrocytes

Wen Tien Wu, Yi Ru Chen, Dai Hua Lu, Fedor Svyatoslavovich Senatov, Kai Chiang Yang, Chen Chie Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Silymarin (SMN), a polyphenolic flavonoid, is involved in multiple bioactive functions including anti-inflammation. Pretreatment with SMN demonstrated chondroprotection against tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) stimulation in a chondrocyte cell line. However, pre- and posttreatment with phytochemicals have varying effects on osteoarthritis (OA) chondrocytes, and the therapeutic potential of SMN after catabolic cytokine stimulation is not fully elucidated. Methods: The cytotoxicity of SMN (12.5, 25, 50 and 100 μM) was evaluated in human primary chondrocytes. The chondrocytes were supplemented with SMN (25 and 50 μM) after interleukin-1beta (IL-1β) stimulation. The mRNA expression and protein production of catabolic/anabolic cytokines as well as extracellular matrix (ECM) components were evaluated. Results: High-dose SMN (100 μM) impaired the mitochondrial activity in chondrocytes, and 50 μM SMN further caused cell death in IL-1β-stimulated cells. The addition of 25 μM SMN ameliorated cell senescence; downregulated the catabolic genes of inducible nitric oxide synthase, IL-1β, TNF-α, matrix metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3), MMP-9 and MMP-13; upregulated the anabolic genes of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 (TIMP-1) and collagen type II alpha 1; and restored the expression of chondrogenic phenotype genes SOX9 and sirtuin-1 (Sirt1). In addition, the production of IL-1β, MMP-3 and MMP-9 decreased with an increase in TIMP-1 secretion. However, the mRNA levels of IL-6, IL-8 and IL-10 and protein production remained high. The addition of nicotinamide, a Sirt1 inhibitor, downregulated SOX9 and attenuated the therapeutic effects of SMN on IL-1β-stimulated chondrocytes. Conclusion: SMN regulates the chondrocyte phenotype through Sirt1 and SOX9 to improve ECM homeostasis and may serve as a complementary therapy for early-stage knee OA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number147
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Catabolic cytokine
  • Matrix metalloproteinase
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Silymarin
  • Sirtuin-1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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