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Arhalofenate acid inhibits monosodium urate crystal-induced inflammatory responses through activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) signaling



Arhalofenate acid, the active acid form of arhalofenate, is a non-agonist peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) ligand, with uricosuric activity via URAT1 inhibition. Phase II studies revealed decreased acute arthritis flares in arhalofenate-treated gout compared with allopurinol alone. Hence, we investigated the anti-inflammatory effects and mechanisms of arhalofenate and its active acid form for responses to monosodium urate (MSU) crystals.


We assessed in-vivo responses to MSU crystals in murine subcutaneous air pouches and in-vitro responses in murine bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs) by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), SDS-PAGE/Western blot, immunostaining, and transmission electron microscopy analyses.


Oral administration of arhalofenate (250 mg/kg) blunted total leukocyte ingress, neutrophil influx, and air pouch fluid interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, and CXCL1 in response to MSU crystal injection (p < 0.05 for each). Arhalofenate acid (100 μM) attenuated MSU crystal-induced IL-1β production in BMDMs via inhibition of NLRP3 inflammasome activation. In addition, arhalofenate acid dose-dependently increased activation (as assessed by phosphorylation) of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). Studying AMPKα1 knockout mice, we elucidated that AMPK mediated the anti-inflammatory effects of arhalofenate acid. Moreover, arhalofenate acid attenuated the capacity of MSU crystals to suppress AMPK activity, regulated expression of multiple downstream AMPK targets that modulate mitochondrial function and oxidative stress, preserved intact mitochondrial cristae and volume density, and promoted anti-inflammatory autophagy flux in BMDMs.


Arhalofenate acid is anti-inflammatory and acts via AMPK activation and its downstream signaling in macrophages. These effects likely contribute to a reduction of gout flares.

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