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Rejuvenation Res. 2012 Feb;15(1):3-21. doi: 10.1089/rej.2011.1203. Epub 2012 Jan 9.

Phenolic secoiridoids in extra virgin olive oil impede fibrogenic and oncogenic epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition: extra virgin olive oil as a source of novel antiaging phytochemicals.

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Catalan Institute of Oncology , Girona, Catalonia, Spain.


The epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) genetic program is a molecular convergence point in the life-threatening progression of organ fibrosis and cancer toward organ failure and metastasis, respectively. Here, we employed the EMT process as a functional screen for testing crude natural extracts for accelerated drug development in fibrosis and cancer. Because extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) (i.e., the juice derived from the first cold pressing of the olives without any further refining process) naturally contains high levels of phenolic compounds associated with the health benefits derived from consuming an EVOO-rich Mediterranean diet, we have tested the ability of an EVOO-derived crude phenolic extract to regulate fibrogenic and oncogenic EMT in vitro. High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) coupled to time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometry assays revealed that the EVOO phenolic extract was mainly composed (∼70%) of two members of the secoiridoid family of complex polyphenols, namely oleuropein aglycone-the bitter principle of olives-and its derivative decarboxymethyl oleuropein aglycone. EVOO secoiridoids efficiently prevented loss of proteins associated with polarized epithelial phenotype (i.e., E-cadherin) as well as de novo synthesis of proteins associated with mesenchymal migratory morphology of transitioning cells (i.e., vimentin). The ability of EVOO to impede transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β)-induced disintegration of E-cadherin-mediated cell-cell contacts apparently occurred as a consequence of the ability of EVOO phenolics to prevent the upregulation of SMAD4-a critical mediator of TGF-β signaling-and of the SMAD transcriptional cofactor SNAIL2 (Slug)-a well-recognized epithelial repressor. Indeed, EVOO phenolics efficiently prevented crucial TGF-β-induced EMT transcriptional events, including upregulation of SNAI2, TCF4, VIM (Vimentin), FN (fibronectin), and SERPINE1 genes. While awaiting a better mechanistic understanding of how EVOO phenolics molecularly shut down the EMT differentiation process, it seems reasonable to suggest that nontoxic Oleaceae secoiridoids certainly merit to be considered for aging studies and, perhaps, for ulterior design of more pharmacologically active second-generation anti-EMT molecules.

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