The electrophile-responsive element (EpRE) is a transcriptional enhancer involved in cancer-chemoprotective gene expression effects of certain dietary compounds. In this study we measured the ability of extracts of glycosidase treated tomato fruits from 97 different accessions to induce EpRE-mediated luciferase expression using EpRE-LUX reporter cells and analyzed the same extracts using LC–MSbased untargeted metabolomics profiling. We were able to pinpoint those tomato compounds that were most correlated with EpRE-mediated luciferase induction, by combining reporter gene assay data with the metabolic profiles of the same extracts. Flavonoids were the compounds showing the strongest positive correlation with EpRE-LUX activity.
These results were validated using a transgenic tomato line accumulating high levels of flavonoids. Results obtained corroborated that flavonoids are an important determinant of the ability of tomato fruit extracts to induce EpRE-mediated beneficial health effects. Overall, these results indicate that combining untargeted metabolomics with reporter gene assays provides a powerful tool for nutritionists, plant breeders and food chemists towards identification of potential health-beneficial constituents of tomato fruits, as well as of other crops and products derived thereof.