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Eur J Biochem. 1990 Jul 5;190(3):469-76.

Differential inhibitory effects of various flavonoids on the activities of reverse transcriptase and cellular DNA and RNA polymerases.

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Laboratory of Viral Oncology, Aichi Cancer Center Research Institute, Nagoya, Japan.

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  • Eur J Biochem 1991 Aug 1;199(3):769.


Four flavonoids, 5,6,7-trihydroxyflavone (baicalein), 3,3',4',5,7-pentahydroxyflavone (quercetin), 3,3',4',5,6,7-hexahydroxyflavone (quercetagetin) and 3,3',4',5,5',7-hexahydroxyflavone (myricetin), were found to be potent inhibitors of reverse transcriptases from Rauscher murine leukemia virus (RLV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Under the reaction conditions employed, any one of these flavonoids almost completely inhibited the activity of RLV reverse transcriptase at a concentration of 1 microgram/ml. HIV reverse transcriptase was inhibited by 100%, 100%, 90% and 70% in the presence of 2 micrograms/ml quercetin, myricetin, quercetagetin and baicalein, respectively. The mode of inhibition of these flavonoids was competitive (RLV reverse transcriptase) or partially competitive (HIV reverse transcriptase) with respect to the template.primer complex, (rA)n.(dT), and noncompetitive with respect to the triphosphate substrate, dTTP. The Ki values for RLV reverse transcriptase were found to be 0.37 microM and 0.08 microM for baicalein and quercetin, respectively and those for HIV reverse transcriptase were 2.52 microM, 0.52 microM, 0.46 microM and 0.08 microM for baicalein, quercetin, quercetagetin and myricetin, respectively. Comparative studies with other flavonoids (hydroxyflavones, dihydroxyflavones and polyhydroxyflavones and flavanones) carried out to clarify the structure/activity relationships, revealed that the presence of both the unsaturated double bond between positions 2 and 3 of the flavonoid pyrone ring, and the three hydroxyl groups introduced on positions 5, 6 and 7, (i.e. baicalein) were a prerequisite for the inhibition of reverse transcriptase activity. Removal of the 6-hydroxyl group of baicalein required the introduction of three additional hydroxyl groups at positions 3, 3' and 4' (quercetin), to afford a compound still capable of inhibiting the reverse transcriptase activity. Quercetagetin which contains the structures of both baicalein and quercetin, and myricetin which has the structure of quercetin with an additional hydroxyl group on the 5' position also proved strong inhibitors of reverse transcriptase activity. The inhibition by baicalein of reverse transcriptase is highly specific, whereas quercetin and quercetagetin were also strong inhibitors of DNA polymerase beta and DNA polymerase I, respectively. Myricetin was also a potent inhibitor of both DNA polymerase alpha and DNA polymerase I.

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