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J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Nov;49(11):5679-84.

Esterase activity able to hydrolyze dietary antioxidant hydroxycinnamates is distributed along the intestine of mammals.

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  • 1Institute of Food Research, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich NR4 7UA, United Kingdom.


Hydroxycinnamic acids are effective antioxidants and are abundant components of plant cell walls, especially in cereal bran. For example, wheat and rye brans are rich sources of the hydroxycinnamates ferulic acid, sinapic acid, and p-coumaric acid. These phenolics are part of human and animal diets and may contribute to the beneficial effects derived from consumption of cereal bran. However, these compounds are ester linked to the main polymers in the plant cell wall and cannot be absorbed in this complex form. The present work shows that esterases with activity toward esters of the major dietary hydroxycinnamates are distributed throughout the intestinal tract of mammals. In rats, the cinnamoyl esterase activity in the small intestine is derived mainly from the mucosa, whereas in the large intestine the esterase activity was found predominantly in the luminal microflora. Mucosa cell-free extracts obtained from human duodenum, jejunum, and ileum efficiently hydrolyzed various hydroxycinnamoyl esters, providing the first evidence of human cinnamoyl esterase(s). This study first demonstrates the release by human colonic esterase(s) (mostly of microbial origin) of sinapic acid and p-coumaric acid from rye and wheat brans. Hydrolysis by intestinal esterase(s) is very likely the major route for release of antioxidant hydroxycinnamic acids in vivo.

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