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J Nutr Biochem. 2012 Jul;23(7):733-40. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2011.03.017. Epub 2011 Aug 12.

Route of administration determines the anxiolytic activity of the flavonols kaempferol, quercetin and myricetin--are they prodrugs?

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Department of Pharmaceutics, College of Pharmacy, University of Florida, PO Box 100494, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA.


Several in vivo and in vitro studies have confirmed that flavonols are metabolized by the intestinal microflora to their corresponding hydroxyphenylacetic acids. In this article, a comparison of the anxiolytic activity of the flavonols kaempferol, quercetin and myricetin in the elevated plus maze after oral (po) and intraperitoneal (ip) administration to mice in a dose range of 0.1 to 2.0 mg/kg is presented. In addition, their corresponding metabolites p-hydroxyphenylacetic acid (p-HPAA) and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) were tested after intraperitoneal administration. Anxiolytic activity was detected for kaempferol and quercetin only after oral administration. No anxiolytic effects were observed when kaempferol and quercetin were given via the intraperitoneal administration route. The corresponding hydroxyphenylacetic metabolites p-HPAA and DOPAC showed anxiolytic effects after intraperitoneal application. In order to further test the hypothesis that flavonoids are possible prodrugs which require activation by intestinal bacteria, gut sterilization was performed using pretreatment with the antibiotic enrofloxacin (7.5 mg/day, po, for 4 days). After antibiotic treatment, the anxiolytic effect of kaempferol and quercetin disappeared, whereas it was still present for the positive control diazepam. Our results support the hypothesis that flavonoids act as prodrugs which are transformed into their active hydroxyphenylacetic acid metabolites by intestinal microflora.

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