Luteolin stars in study of healthful plant compounds

July 8, 2010

Natural compounds in plants may protect us against unwanted inflammation. However, human nutrition researchers agree that many questions remain about exactly how these compounds, known as phytochemicals, do that. Studies led by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) molecular biologist Daniel H. Hwang are providing some of the missing details.

Certain kinds of inflammation can increase risk of cancer and of some other disorders, including heart disease and insulin resistance, according to Hwang. He's with the ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center at the University of California-Davis.

Some of Hwang's on-going studies build upon earlier research in which he and colleagues teased out precise details of how six in plants--luteolin, quercetin, chrysin, eriodicytol, hesperetin, and naringenin--apparently act as anti-inflammatory agents.

Luteolin is found in celery, thyme, green peppers, and chamomile tea. Foods rich in quercetin include capers, apples, and onions. Chrysin is from the fruit of blue passionflower, a tropical vine. Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and other citrus fruits are good sources of eriodicytol, hesperetin, and naringenin.

Hwang's team showed, for the first time, that all six plant compounds target an enzyme known as "TBK1." Each compound inhibits, to a greater or lesser extent, TBK1's ability to activate a specific biochemical signal. If unimpeded, the signal would lead to formation of gene products known to trigger inflammation.

Of the six compounds, luteolin was the most effective inhibitor of TBK1. Luteolin is already known to have anti-inflammatory properties. However, Hwang and his colleagues were the first to provide this new, mechanistic explanation of how luteolin exerts its anti-inflammatory effects.

The approaches that the researchers developed to uncover these compounds' effects can be used by scientists elsewhere to identify additional anti-inflammatory compounds present in fruits and vegetables.

Explore further: Naturally-occurring apple compounds reduce risk of pancreatic cancer

More information: Their findings on phytochemicals that act as TBK1 inhibitors appear in Biochemical Pharmacology and in the Journal of Immunology.

Related Stories

New insights into how natural antioxidants fight fat

November 5, 2007

Scientists in Taiwan are reporting new insights into why diets rich in fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of obesity. Their study, scheduled for the Oct. 17 (current) issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, ...

St. John's wort collection mined for its medicinal value

March 30, 2010

A unique collection of St. John's wort (Hypericum) curated by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Ames, Iowa, is providing university collaborators with genetically diverse, well-documented sources of this herb ...

Recommended for you

A new form of real gold, almost as light as air

November 25, 2015

Researchers at ETH Zurich have created a new type of foam made of real gold. It is the lightest form ever produced of the precious metal: a thousand times lighter than its conventional form and yet it is nearly impossible ...

Getting under the skin of a medieval mystery

November 23, 2015

A simple PVC eraser has helped an international team of scientists led by bioarchaeologists at the University of York to resolve the mystery surrounding the tissue-thin parchment used by medieval scribes to produce the first ...

Moonlighting molecules: Finding new uses for old enzymes

November 27, 2015

A collaboration between the University of Cambridge and MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, has led researchers to identify a potentially significant new application for a well-known ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.