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Digestion. 2014;90(3):179-89. doi: 10.1159/000366055. Epub 2014 Nov 12.

Bilberry-derived anthocyanins prevent IFN-γ-induced pro-inflammatory signalling and cytokine secretion in human THP-1 monocytic cells.

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Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.



Anthocyanins are plant-derived dietary components that are highly abundant, for example, in bilberries. We have previously demonstrated that anthocyanins exert anti-inflammatory properties in mouse colitis models and ameliorate disease activity in ulcerative colitis patients. Here, we studied the molecular mechanisms through which anthocyanin-containing bilberry extract (BE) exerts anti-inflammatory effects in human monocytic THP-1 cells.


THP-1 cells were pre-incubated with BE 20 min prior to TNF-α or IFN-γ (100 ng/ml each) stimulation. Signalling protein activation was studied by Western blotting, mRNA expression by quantitative PCR and cytokine secretion by ELISA.


IFN-γ-induced phosphorylation of STAT1 and STAT3 was significantly reduced by BE co-treatment. Consequently, levels of mRNA expression and/or cytokine secretion of MCP-1, IL-6, TNF-α, ICAM-1, and T-bet were lower with BE co-treatment. In contrast, BE enhanced TNF-α-mediated p65-NF-κB phosphorylation but reduced ERK1/2 phosphorylation. BE co-treatment further increased TNF-α-induced mRNA expression and secretion of NF-κB target genes, such as IL-6, IL-8, and MCP-1, while mRNA levels of ICAM-1 were reduced.


BE co-treatment reduced IFN-γ-induced signal protein activation, pro-inflammatory gene expression, and cytokine secretion, whereas it enhanced TNF-α-induced responses. These findings suggest a distinct role for anthocyanins in modulating inflammatory responses that need to be further studied to fully understand anthocyanin-mediated effects.

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