Toll-Like Receptor-Dependent Immunomodulatory Activity of Pycnogenol®

Annelies Verlaet, Nieke van der Bolt, Ben Meijer, Annelies Breynaert, Tania Naessens, Prokopis Konstanti, Hauke Smidt, Nina Hermans, Huub F.J. Savelkoul, Malgorzata Teodorowicz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Pycnogenol® (PYC), an extract of French maritime pine bark, is widely used as a dietary supplement. PYC has been shown to exert anti-inflammatory actions via inhibiting the Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) pathway. However, the role of the other receptors from the TLR family in the immunomodulatory activity of PYC has not been described so far. AIM: The aim of this study was to investigate whether PYC might exert its immunomodulatory properties through cell membrane TLRs (TLR1/2, TLR5, and TLR2/6) other than TLR4. Moreover, the effect of gastrointestinal metabolism on the immunomodulatory effects of PYC was investigated. FINDINGS: We showed that intact non-metabolized PYC dose-dependently acts as an agonist of TLR1/2 and TLR2/6 and as a partial agonist of TLR5. PYC on its own does not agonize or antagonize TLR4. However, after the formation of complexes with lipopolysaccharides (LPS), it is a potent activator of TLR4 signaling. Gastrointestinal metabolism of PYC revealed the immunosuppressive potential of the retentate fraction against TLR1/2 and TLR2/6 when compared to the control fraction containing microbiota and enzymes only. The dialyzed fraction containing PYC metabolites revealed the capacity to induce anti-inflammatory IL-10 secretion. Finally, microbially metabolized PYC affected the colonic microbiota composition during in vitro gastrointestinal digestion. CONCLUSIONS: This study showed that gastrointestinal metabolism of PYC reveals its biological activity as a potential inhibitor of TLRs signaling. The results suggest that metabolized PYC acts as a partial agonist of TLR1/2 and TLR2/6 in the presence of the microbiota-derived TLR agonists (retentate fraction) and that it possesses anti-inflammatory potential reflected by the induction of IL-10 from THP-1 macrophages (dialysate fraction).

Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2019


  • catechin
  • gastrointestinal metabolism
  • immunomodulation
  • metabolites
  • partial agonist
  • Pycnogenol®
  • Toll-like receptors


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