IL-6 is a major causative factor of inflammatory disease. Although IL-6 and its signaling pathways are promising targets, orally available small-molecule drugs specific for IL-6 have not been developed. To discover IL-6 antagonists, we screened our in-house chemical library and identifiedLMT-28, a novel synthetic compound, as a candidate IL-6 blocker. The activity, mechanism of action, and direct molecular target of LMT-28 were investigated. A reporter gene assay showed that LMT-28 suppressed activation of STAT3 induced by IL-6, but not activation induced by leukemia inhibitory factor. In addition, LMT-28 downregulated IL-6-stimulated phosphorylation of STAT3, gp130, and JAK2 protein and substantially inhibited IL-6-dependent TF-1 cell proliferation. LMT-28 antagonized IL-6-induced TNF-α production in vivo. In pathologic models, oral administration of LMT-28 alleviated collagen-induced arthritis and acute pancreatitis in mice. Based on the observation of upstream IL-6 signal inhibition by LMT-28, we hypothesized IL-6, IL-6Rα, or gp130 to be putative molecular targets. We subsequently demonstrated direct interaction of LMT-28 with gp130 and specific reduction of IL-6/IL-6Rα complex binding to gp130 in the presence of LMT-28, which was measured by surface plasmon resonance analysis. Taken together, our data suggest that LMT-28 is a novel synthetic IL-6 inhibitor that functions through direct binding to gp130.
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