Imperatorin is a furanocoumarin compound which exists in many medicinal herbs and possesses various biological activities. Herein, we investigated the antiallergic effects of imperatorin in asthmatic mice and explored the immunomodulatory actions of imperatorin on immune cells. We used a murine model of ovalbumin (OVA)-induced asthma to evaluate the therapeutic potential of imperatorin. Additionally, bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (DCs; BMDCs) were used to clarify whether imperatorin exerts an antiallergic effect through altering the ability of DCs to regulate T cells. Oral administration of imperatorin to OVA-sensitized and -challenged mice decreased serum OVA-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) production, attenuated the airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR), and alleviated airway inflammation in a dose-dependent manner. Notably, secretions of Th2 cytokines and chemokines were reduced, and numbers of interleukin (IL)-10-producing regulatory T cells (Tregs) increased in imperatorin-treated mice. Imperatorin inhibited proinflammatory cytokines and IL-12 production but enhanced IL-10 secretion by lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated BMDCs. Compared to fully mature DCs, imperatorin-treated DCs expressed high levels of the inducible costimulatory ligand (ICOSL) and Jagged1 molecules, and had the regulatory capacity to promote the generation of IL-10-producing CD4+ T cells in vitro. Additionally, imperatorin directly suppressed activated CD4+ T-cell proliferation and cytokine production. Imperatorin may possess therapeutic potential against Th2-mediated allergic asthma not only via stimulating DC induction of Tregs but also via direct inhibition of Th2 cell activation. These findings provide new insights into how imperatorin affects the Th2 immune response and the development of imperatorin as a Treg-type immunomodulatory agent to treat allergic asthma.
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