Targeting TNF-α and NF-κB Activation by Bee Venom: Role in Suppressing Adjuvant Induced Arthritis and Methotrexate Hepatotoxicity in Rats
Low dose methotrexate is the cornerstone for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. One of its major drawbacks is hepatotoxicity, resulting in poor compliance of therapy. Dissatisfied arthritis patients are likely to seek the option of complementary and alternative medicine such as bee venom. The combination of natural products with modern medicine poses the possibility of potential interaction between the two groups and needs investigation. The present study was aimed to investigate the modulatory effect of bee venom acupuncture on efficacy, toxicity, and pharmacokinetics and tissue disposition of methotrexate. Complete Freund's adjuvant induced arthritic rats were treated for 3 weeks with methotrexate and/or bee venom. Arthritic score, ankle diameter, paw volume and tissue expression of NF-κB and TNF-α were determined to assess anti-arthritic effects, while anti-nociceptive effects were assessed by gait score and thermal hyperalgesia. Methotrexate toxicity was assessed by measuring serum TNF-α, liver enzymes and expression of NF-κB in liver. Combination therapy of bee venom with methotrexate significantly improved arthritic parameters and analgesic effect as compared to methotrexate alone. Bee venom ameliorated serum TNF-α and liver enzymes elevations as well as over expression of NF-κB in liver induced by methotrexate. Histological examination supported the results. And for the first time bee venom acupuncture was approved to increase methotrexate bioavailability with a significant decrease in its elimination. Conclusion: bee venom potentiates the anti-arthritic effects of methotrexate, possibly by increasing its bioavailability. Also, it provides a potent anti-nociceptive effect. Furthermore, bee venom protects against methotrexate induced hepatotoxicity mostly due to its inhibitory effect on TNF-α and NF-κB.