Background: Acute and chronic infections and inflammations in the gut are highly
prevalent in tropical and subtropical countries. Therapeutic measures like Non-Steroidal Anti-
Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) often manifest toxic effects.
Objective: Some herbal agents (cucurbit fruits) were investigated in-vitro for gut-barrier reinforcement
and anti-inflammatory action.
Methods: Zonula Occludens (ZO-1), mucin (MUC-2), cyclooxygenases (COX-1 and COX-2) expressions
were estimated through ELISA kits. Nitric oxide (NO) was estimated through Griess reaction
and adhesion of Lactobacillus rhamnosus (Lrh) to epithelial cells was evaluated microscopically.
Results: TNF-α (10 ng/mL) induced inflammatory reaction in epithelial cells (HT-29 and Caco-2)
by decreasing ZO-1 proteins. Cells pretreated with cucurbits, when challenged by TNF-α, countered
the reduction of ZO-1 proteins, but pretreatment with indomethacin (NSAID) decreased the
expression of ZO-1 further. Addition of Lrh to HT-29 cultures, enhanced mucin (MUC-2) production.
Cucurbits alone did not enhance MUC-2 production in HT-29 cells but the addition of cucurbits
to the combination of Lrh + HT-29 cells significantly increased MUC-2 production and adhesion
of Lrh to epithelial cells.
TNF-α and LPS treatment to Caco-2 cells increased COX-2 and NO production, but pretreatment
with either cucurbits or indomethacin rendered their decrease. Pretreatment with indomethacin decreased
COX-1 production in Caco-2 cells but pretreatment with cucurbits yielded enhanced
Conclusion: This study revealed the potential of cucurbits as non-toxic anti-inflammatory and barrier
strengthening agents against gut ailments.