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Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2006 Dec;58(6):816-25. Epub 2006 Mar 22.

Differential modulation of cyclooxygenase-mediated prostaglandin production by the putative cancer chemopreventive flavonoids tricin, apigenin and quercetin.

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  • 1Cancer Biomarkers and Prevention Group, Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine, University of Leicester, LE2 7LX, Leicester, UK.



Diet-derived flavonoids possess cancer chemopreventive properties in preclinical models. The knowledge of the pharmacology of most flavonoids is insufficient to warrant their advancement to clinical evaluation.


Here the three flavonoids tricin from rice bran, apigenin from leafy vegetables, and quercetin from onions and apples, were compared in terms of their ability to modulate cyclooxygenase- (COX-) catalyzed prostaglandin E-2 (PGE-2) generation. Specifically their effects on the following parameters were studied: (1) COX enzyme activity, (2) COX-2 expression in human-derived colon cancer cells HCA-7, which express COX-2 constitutively, (3) phorbol ester-mediated COX-2 induction in human colon epithelial cells (HCEC), and (4) PGE-2 levels in cellular incubations.


Tricin and quercetin inhibited enzyme activity in purified COX-1 and -2 preparations with IC50 values of near 1 (tricin) and 5 microM (quercetin). Apigenin at up to 25 microM did not affect COX enzyme activity. Flavonoids were incubated with cells for 6 or 24 h and COX-2 protein expression and PGE-2 levels were assessed by Western blot and competitive immunoassay, respectively. None of the agents affected constitutive COX-2 expression in HCA-7 cells. Apigenin, but not tricin or quercetin, down-regulated inducible COX-2 expression in HCEC cells on 6 h incubation. All three flavonoids reduced cellular levels of PGE-2 in the supernatant of HCA-7 cells at both time points and of HCEC cells at 6 h.


The results demonstrate that these structurally similar flavonoids regulate COX-mediated PGE-2 production in different fashions. Their ability to attenuate prostanoid levels may contribute to their cancer chemopreventive efficacy.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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