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J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Nov 15;54(23):8724-32.

Uptake and metabolism of hydroxycinnamic acids (chlorogenic, caffeic, and ferulic acids) by HepG2 cells as a model of the human liver.

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Department of Metabolism and Nutrition, Instituto del Frío (CSIC), C/José Antonio Novais, 10 Ciudad Universitaria, E-28040 Madrid, Spain.


Hydroxycinnamic acids are antioxidant polyphenols common in the human diet, although their potential health benefits depend on their bioavailability. To study the hepatic uptake and metabolism, human hepatoma HepG2 cells were incubated for 2 and 18 h with caffeic, ferulic, and chlorogenic acids. Moderate uptake of caffeic and ferulic acids was observed versus a low absorption of chlorogenic acid, where esterification of the caffeic acid moiety markedly reduced its absorption. Methylation was the preferential pathway for caffeic acid metabolism, along with glucuronidation and sulfation, while ferulic acid generated glucuronides as the only metabolites. Ferulic acid appeared to be more slowly taken up and metabolized by HepG2 cells than caffeic acid, with 73% and 64% of the free, nonmetabolized molecules detected in the culture medium after 18 h, respectively. In conclusion, hydroxycinnamic acids can be metabolized by the liver as suggested by the results obtained using HepG2 cells as a hepatic model system.

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