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J Nutr. 2010 Jun;140(6):1117-21. doi: 10.3945/jn.109.117499. Epub 2010 Apr 7.

Bioactive dietary polyphenols decrease heme iron absorption by decreasing basolateral iron release in human intestinal Caco-2 cells.

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  • 1Department of Nutritional Sciences, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


Because dietary polyphenolic compounds have a wide range of effects in vivo and vitro, including chelation of metals such as iron, it is prudent to test whether the regular consumption of dietary bioactive polyphenols impair the utilization of dietary iron. Because our previous study showed the inhibitory effect of (-) -epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) and grape seed extract (GSE) on nonheme iron absorption, we investigated whether EGCG and GSE also affect iron absorption from heme. The fully differentiated intestinal Caco-2 cells grown on microporous membrane inserts were incubated with heme (55)Fe in uptake buffer containing EGCG or GSE in the apical compartment for 7 h. Both EGCG and GSE decreased (P < 0.05) transepithelial transport of heme-derived iron. However, apical heme iron uptake was increased (P < 0.05) by GSE. Despite the increased cellular levels of heme (55)Fe, the transfer of iron across the intestinal basolateral membrane was extremely low, indicating that basolateral export was impaired by GSE. In contrast, EGCG moderately decreased the cellular assimilation of heme (55)Fe, but the basolateral iron transfer was extremely low, suggesting that the basolateral efflux of heme iron was also inhibited by EGCG. Expression of heme oxygenase, ferroportin, and hephaestin protein was not changed by EGCG and GSE. The apical uptake of heme iron was temperature dependent and saturable in fully differentiated Caco-2 cells. Our data show that bioactive dietary polyphenols inhibit heme iron absorption mainly by reducing basolateral iron exit rather than decreasing apical heme iron uptake in intestinal cells.

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