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Br J Nutr. 2009 Jul;102(2):201-6. doi: 10.1017/S0007114508162110.

Dihydroxylated phenolic acids derived from microbial metabolism reduce lipopolysaccharide-stimulated cytokine secretion by human peripheral blood mononuclear cells.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Institut d'Investigació Biomèdica August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), Hospital Clínic, Universitat de Barcelona, 08036 Barcelona, Spain.


Oligomers and polymers of flavan-3-ols (proanthocyanidins) are very abundant in the Mediterranean diet, but are poorly absorbed. However, when these polyphenols reach the colon, they are metabolised by the intestinal microbiota into various phenolic acids, including phenylpropionic, phenylacetic and benzoic acid derivatives. Since the biological properties of these metabolites are not completely known, in the present study, we investigated the effect of the following microbial phenolic metabolites: 3,4-dihydroxyphenylpropionic acid (3,4-DHPPA), 3-hydroxyphenylpropionic acid, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (3,4-DHPAA), 3-hydroxyphenylacetic acid, 4-hydroxybenzoic acid and 4-hydroxyhippuric acid (4-HHA), on modulation of the production of the main pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF-alpha, IL-1beta and IL-6). The production of these cytokines by lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) pre-treated with the phenolic metabolites was studied in six healthy volunteers. With the exception of 4-HHA for TNF-alpha secretion, only the dihydroxylated compounds, 3,4-DHPPA and 3,4-DHPAA, significantly inhibited the secretion of these pro-inflammatory cytokines in LPS-stimulated PBMC. Mean inhibition of the secretion of TNF-alpha by 3,4-DHPPA and 3,4-DHPAA was 84.9 and 86.4 %, respectively. The concentrations of IL-6 in the culture supernatant were reduced by 88.8 and 92.3 % with 3,4-DHPPA and 3,4-DHPAA pre-treatment, respectively. Finally, inhibition was slightly higher for IL-1beta, 93.1 % by 3,4-DHPPA and 97.9 % by 3,4-DHPAA. These results indicate that dihydroxylated phenolic acids derived from microbial metabolism present marked anti-inflammatory properties, providing additional information about the health benefits of dietary polyphenols and their potential value as therapeutic agents.

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