U18666A is a cholesterol transport-inhibiting agent that is used widely to mimic Niemann–Pick type C disease. The effect of U18666A on tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α production in mouse macrophage cell line, RAW 264·7 cells and peritoneal macrophages was examined. U18666A induced TNF-α mRNA expression 48 h after the treatment, and TNF-α production 48 and 72 h after stimulation in RAW 264·7 cells. U18666A accumulated intracellular free cholesterol in the culture of normal medium but not cholesterol-free medium. U18666A also induced reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation in normal medium but much less in cholesterol-free medium. Anti-oxidant N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) abolished U18666A-induced TNF-α production. U18666A led to the phosphorylation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase 24 and 48 h after the stimulation and the p38 activation was inhibited in presence of cholesterol-free medium or NAC. A p38 inhibitor reduced U18666A-induced TNF-α production. Taken together, U18666A was suggested to induce TNF-α production in RAW 264·7 cells via free cholesterol accumulation-mediated ROS generation
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