5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) is a commonly used drug for the treatment of malignant cancers. However, approximately 80% of patients undergoing 5-FU treatment suffer from gastrointestinal mucositis. The aim of this report was to identify the drug target for the 5-FU-induced intestinal mucositis. 5-FU-induced intestinal mucositis was established by intraperitoneally administering mice with 100 mg/kg 5-FU. Network analysis of gene expression profile and bioluminescent imaging were applied to identify the critical molecule associated with 5-FU-induced mucositis. Our data showed that 5-FU induced inflammation in the small intestine, characterized by the increased intestinal wall thickness and crypt length, the decreased villus height, and the increased myeloperoxidase activity in tissues and proinflammatory cytokine production in sera. Network analysis of 5-FU-affected genes by transcriptomic tool showed that the expression of genes was regulated by nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB), and NF-κB was the central molecule in the 5-FU-regulated biological network. NF-κB activity was activated by 5-FU in the intestine, which was judged by in vivo bioluminescence imaging and immunohistochemical staining. However, 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA) inhibited 5-FU-induced NF-κB activation and proinflammatory cytokine production. Moreover, 5-FU-induced histological changes were improved by 5-ASA. In conclusion, our findings suggested that NF-κB was the critical molecule associated with the pathogenesis of 5-FU-induced mucositis, and inhibition of NF-κB activity ameliorated the mucosal damage caused by 5-FU.
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