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Free Radic Biol Med. 2012 Jul 15;53(2):305-13. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2012.04.013. Epub 2012 Apr 23.

Facilitated cellular uptake and suppression of inducible nitric oxide synthase by a metabolite of maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol).

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1
Institut für Pharmazie und Lebensmittelchemie, Universität Würzburg, 97074 Würzburg, Germany.

Abstract

Many natural products exhibit anti-inflammatory activity by suppressing excessive nitric oxide (NO) production by inducible NO synthase (iNOS). The maritime pine bark extract Pycnogenol has been formerly shown to decrease nitrite generation, taken as an index for NO, but so far it was not clear which constituent of the complex flavonoid mixture mediated this effect. The purpose of this study was to elucidate whether the in vivo generated Pycnogenol metabolite M1 (δ-(3,4-dihydroxyphenyl)-γ-valerolactone) displayed any activity in the context of induction of iNOS expression and excessive NO production. For the first time we show that M1 inhibited nitrite production (IC(50) 1.3 μg/ml, 95% CI 0.96-1.70) and iNOS expression (IC(50) 3.8 μg/ml, 95% CI 0.99-14.35) in a concentration-dependent fashion. This exemplifies bioactivation by metabolism because the M1 precursor molecule catechin is only weakly active. However, these effects required application of M1 in the low-micromolar range, which was not consistent with concentrations previously detected in human plasma samples after ingestion of maritime pine bark extract. Thus, we investigated a possible accumulation of M1 in cells and indeed observed high-capacity binding of this flavonoid metabolite to macrophages, monocytes, and endothelial cells. This binding was distinctly decreased in the presence of the influx inhibitor phloretin, suggesting the contribution of a facilitated M1 transport into cells. In fact, intracellular accumulation of M1 could explain why in vivo bioactivity can be observed with nanomolar plasma concentrations that typically fail to exhibit measurable activity in vitro.

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