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Acanthus ebracteatus Vahl. (family Acanthaceae), a mangrove plant, is used in Thai traditional medicine for treatment of various ailments such as skin diseases and cancers, and for health promotion and longevity. Previous reports have shown that aqueous extract of A. ebracteatus (AE) roots exhibits an immunostimulatory effect on macrophage cells in vitro. However, in vivo effects of its extract on immune response are still largely unknown. In this study, the stimulatory effect of AE extract on macrophage function was further assessed in cyclophosphamides (CTX)-induced immunosuppressive BALB/c mice. The mechanism involving alterations of immune responses in vitro and in vivo by AE extract was also evaluated. The results demonstrated that 14-day pretreatment with AE extract (0.06, 0.6 and 3.0 g/kg body weight/day) markedly enhanced phagocytic activity of peritoneal macrophages and affected hematological profiles especially white blood cells and platelet counts as well as the serum levels of some cytokines in CTX-induced immunosuppressive mice, compared to healthy mice. Correspondingly, in vitro treatment of J774A.1 murine macrophage cells by non-toxic doses of AE extract (32.5-500 µg/mL) significantly increased phagocytic activity as well as mRNA cytokine expressions of interleukin (IL)-1β and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-a. In conclusion, the aqueous extract of AE roots exhibited a stimulatory effect on innate immunity through macrophage activations in vitro and in vivo. These also imply its therapeutic uses in regulating immune dysfunction diseases.
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