Drugs from Nature Targeting Inflammation


PP01: Coordination

Group: Hermann Stuppner, Martina Neuner, Institute of Pharmacy/Pharmacognosy, University of Innsbruck, Innrain 52c, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria

The main objectives of coordination project are documentation management, controlling the research process and its output, management and controlling of financial affairs, maintenance of the communication and the overall organization within the NFN like publications, presentations and dissemination. The coordination project will be the contact point for all members of the NFN. A steering committee will be formed to decide the NFN internals and to agree on a consortial agreement. Regular meetings for the NFN-members are planned. The necessary infrastructure is available.

PP02: Identification of bio-active natural products by virtual screening

Group: Gerhard Wolber, Daniela Schuster, Institute of Pharmacy/Computer Aided Molecular Design Group, University of Innsbruck, Innrain 52c, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria

The major research interest at the Computer Aided Molecular Design Group within the Institute of Pharmacy/Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry in Innsbruck is dedicated to the understanding and computer-assisted modelling of ligand-protein interactions. Using this approach, promising potentially biologically active molecules can be identified from large structure databases by performing in silico (virtual) screening experiments. In the framework of this NFN, we will apply and refine our methods for enhancing their efficiency in the field of natural products. The methods to be used and further developed will include pharmacophore modelling, database mining, and ligand profiling based on parallel virtual screening. The work done in this project part will specifically help to discover natural products acting at innovative targets in the inflammatory pathway. In general terms, the results obtained should facilitate the usage of computer-aided molecular design methods in the field of natural products.

PP03: From in Silico Plant Selection to the Bioactive NP

Group: Hermann Stuppner, Judith Rollinger, Institute of Pharmacy/Pharmacognosy, University of Innsbruck, Center for Molecular Biosciences, Innrain 52c, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria

One of the major research interests at the Institute of Pharmacy/Pharmacognosy in Innsbruck is dedicated to the target-oriented search of bioactive plant constituents combining classical pharmacognostic methods (bioguided fractionation, ethnopharmacological approach) and modern in silico tools (pharmacophore based virtual screening). Promising plant material selected by in silico prediction and from ethnopharmacological hints are extracted and analytically investigated. Using LC-MS, GC-MS and especially LC-(SPE)-NMR, the bioactive constituents are tracked down in the plant matrix. Compounds of interest are isolated by semi- and preparative chromatographic methods and their structure is determined by mass spectrometry and NMR-spectroscopy. These compounds will be forwarded to the collaborating groups for evaluation of the anti-inflammatory potential.

PP04: From Cell-based Assays to Molecular Mechanisms

Group: Verena M. Dirsch, Atanas Atanasov, Elke H. Heiss, Department of Pharmacognosy, Pharmacology, Molecular Biology, University of Vienna, Althanstr. 14 (UZA II), 1090 Wien, Austria

The major interest of the group is to identify bioactive natural products and to understand the molecular interaction of natural products with proteins/signaling molecules within cells. Thus, the task of PP04 within the NFN is to provide cell-based pharmacological models i) to contribute to bio-guided fractionation and isolation of active compounds; and ii) to do the pharmacological in-depth characterization of isolated hits in terms of their molecular mechanism of action. On one hand, the group will take over virtual hits isolated by cooperating groups and verify their predicted bioactivity. On the other hand, we will contribute to bio-guided fractionation of plants selected by ethnopharmacological criteria. For this, we provide cellular models that allow the screening and bio-guided fractionation of extracts aiming to isolate in vitro anti-inflammatory compounds (i.e. by luciferase reporter gene assays).

PP05: From Ethnomedicine to Bioactive NPs via Bioassay-Guided Isolation

Group: Rudolf Bauer, Franz Bucar, Wolfgang Schühly, Karin Wölkart, Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences/Pharmacognosy, Karl-Franzens-University, Universitätsplatz 3, 8010 Graz, Austria 

The major goal of the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences/Dept. Pharmacognosy, Karl-Franzens-University Graz is the isolation of active constituents from selected plant material from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Research includes pharmacognostic identification and phytochemical characterization (metabolic profiling) of the plant material. Active extracts will be fractionated using the concept of activity guided isolation in collaboration with partner groups. Fractionation and isolation will be achieved by applying preparative thin layer chromatography, column chromatography, medium pressure liquid chromatography, preparative HPLC and/or solvent partition chromatography. The structures of the compounds will be elucidated by spectroscopic means (UV, IR, MS, NMR). Identified compounds will be submitted to partner groups for in-silico screening and evaluation of the pharmacological anti-inflammatory potential. Additional pharmacological profiling can be done in both cellular (inhibition of leukotriene biosynthesis in human granulocytes and human platelets; inhibition of nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in RAW 264.7 macrophages) and enzymatic (inhibition of prostaglandin biosynthesis by COX-1 and COX-2) in vitro assays.

PP06: Reemerging medicinal plants: Bioactivity and biotechnology

Group: Brigitte Kopp, Gottfried Reznicek, Johannes Saukel, Christoph Wawrosch, Department of Pharmacognosy, University of Vienna, Althanstr. 14 (UZA II), 1090 Vienna, Austria

A search for drugs with anti-inflammatory activity in the the VOLKSMED database at the Department of Pharmacognosy, University of Vienna, resulted in a number of hits including species of which the traditional application is well-documented, but the mode of action is not known so far. Existing literature will be searched, information about known compounds processed, and the data made available for in silico screening. Plants for further investigations will be chosen based on screening of crude extracts using cell-based or enzymatic assays and in vivo test systems. Subsequently, plants of interest will be characterised by genetical and chemical methods, a bioassay-guided fractionation will be performed. After structure elucidation through LC-MS, GC-MS, and different NMR-techniques, the active constituents will be tested in vivo by the respective project partners.
The production of plants and/or natural products required by any project partner will be accomplished through biotechnology, this will include the buildup of gene banks for genotype selection, the production of genetically homogenous and high yielding plants, and the establishment of organ cultures, especially transformed hairy root cultures.

PP08: Medicinal Plants: Molecular Characterisation and Domestication

Group: Chlodwig Franz, Johannes Novak, Institute for Applied Botany and Pharmacognosy, University of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinärplatz 1, 1210 Vienna, Austria

One of the crucial points of using plants as sources of functional products is their inhomogeneity. Our part is therefore a multi-dimensional characterisation on the population level by means of molecular biological (DNA sequences, molecular markers) and phytochemical data. In addition, promising plant species/populations will be domesticated, systematically cultivated and genetically improved in order to provide the other project partners with starting materials as prerequisite to achieve reproducible results.

PP09: In vitro and in vivo models for inflammation

Group: Valery Bochkov, Department of Vascular Biology & Thrombosis Research, Medical University of Vienna, Schwarzspanierstr. 17, 1090 Vienna, Austria

The aim of this project part is the evaluation of compounds identified in project parts 02, 03, 05 and 06 analyzed for their interference with the pro-inflammatory NFκB pathway in PP04 for their potential non- NFκB dependent anti-inflammatory activity using in vitro models and to evaluate all specified compounds in ex vivo as well as in vivo models. The main focus lies on the effectiveness of such compounds in acute and chronic, specifically chronic cardiovascular inflammatory models in  mice and on the analysis of “global” effects of natural compounds over and above of their possible specific targets such as the NFκB.
or the arachidonic acid metabolite pathways. It is hypothesized that in addition to their activity of nuclear receptors or by affecting epigenetics or micro-RNAs of target cells thereby influencing a broad spectrum of cellular pathways such as inflammation, metabolism, proliferation and survival.