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Consumption of foods containing flavonoids is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD), possibly by lipid-lowering effects. On the other hand, for one of these flavonoids, quercetin, also genotoxicity was shown especially in in vitro bioassays. Therefore, the first aim of this thesis was to identify mechanisms underlying potential beneficial health effects of flavonoids. The focus was on hepatic lipid metabolism and circulating lipids and a molecular and physiological approach was used. Secondly, we aimed to study the potential in vivo genotoxic effects of quercetin by transcriptome analyses in liver and small intestine, since these represent the tissues of first contact exposed to relatively high levels upon oral intake of flavonoids.
Circulating lipids are important CVD-related risk markers, which are in general determined with commercially available enzyme-based assays. However, the usual enzyme in these assays, peroxidase, has previously been reported to be inhibited by flavonoids. Therefore, we have studied in chapter 2 whether these assays can adequately be used in flavonoid research. We observed that various flavonoid aglycones interfere with peroxidase used in triglycerides (TG) and free fatty acids (FFA) enzymatic assays, reporting incorrect lower TG and FFA levels than actually present. Furthermore, addition of metabolites such as isorhamnetin or quercetin-3-O-glucuronide, the major metabolite of quercetin in human and rat plasma, to murine serum also resulted in a significant reduction of the detected TG levels, while a trend was seen towards reduced FFA levels. It can be concluded that when applying these biochemical assays, vigilance is needed and alternative analytical methods assessing FFA or TG levels should preferably be applied for studying the biological effects of flavonoids on TG and FFA levels.
In chapter 3 mechanistic and physiological effects of quercetin on hepatic lipid metabolism were studied. C57BL/6JOlaHsd male adult mice received a mild high-fat (30 en%) diet without or with supplementation of 0.33% (w/w) quercetin for 12 weeks. Gas chromatography and 1H-NMR were used to quantitatively measure serum lipid profiles. Whole genome microarray analysis of liver tissue was used to identify potential mechanisms underlying altered circulating lipid levels by quercetin supplementation. Body weight, energy intake and hepatic lipid accumulation did not differ significantly between the quercetin and the control group. In serum of quercetin-fed mice, TG levels were decreased by 14% (p<0.001) and total poly unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) levels were increased by 13% (p<0.01). Levels of palmitic acid, oleic acid, and linoleic acid were all decreased by 9-15% (p<0.05) in quercetin-fed mice. Both palmitic acid and oleic acid can be oxidized by omega-oxidation. Gene expression profiling showed indeed that quercetin increased hepatic lipid metabolism, especially omega-oxidation. At the gene level, this was reflected by the up-regulation of cytochrome P450 (Cyp) 4a10, Cyp4a14, Cyp4a31 and Acyl-CoA thioesterase 3 (Acot3). Two relevant regulators, cytochrome P450 oxidoreductase (Por, rate limiting for cytochrome P450 activities) and the transcription factor constitutive androstane receptor (Car; official symbol Nr1i3) were also up- regulated in the quercetin-fed mice. We concluded that quercetin intake increased hepatic lipid omega-oxidation and lowered corresponding circulating lipid levels, which may contribute to potential beneficial effects of quercetin on CVD.
Subsequently, in chapter 4 effects of quercetin supplementation were studied in mice given a high-fat (40 en%) background diet. The set-up of the experiment was the same as in chapter 3, with the exception of the background diet that was used, which was different in fat content and composition. This high-fat diet-induced body weight gain, and serum and hepatic lipid accumulation, which are all known risk factors for CVD. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects and underlying molecular mechanisms of the effects of the flavonoid quercetin on hepatic lipid metabolism in mice given this high-fat diet background. C57BL/6JOlaHsd male adult mice received the high-fat diet without or with supplementation of 0.33% (w/w) quercetin for 12 weeks. Body weight gain was 29% lower in quercetin fed mice versus control mice (p<0.01), while the energy intake was not significantly different. Quercetin supplementation lowered high-fat diet-induced hepatic lipid accumulation to 29% of the amount present in the control mice (p<0.01). 1H-NMR serum lipid profiling revealed that the supplementation also significantly lowered high-fat diet-induced increases in serum lipid levels. Global gene expression profiling of liver showed that cytochrome P450 2b (Cyp2b) genes, key target genes of the transcription factor Car, were down-regulated. However, the induction of omega-oxidation observed by quercetin supplementation to a mild high-fat (30en%) diet (chapter 3), was not observed this time with the high-fat (40en%) diet. Cumulatively, quercetin decreased high-fat diet-induced body weight gain, hepatic lipid accumulation and serum lipid levels. This was accompanied by regulation of cytochrome P450 2b genes in liver, which are considered to be under transcriptional control of CAR. The quercetin effects are likely dependent on the fat content and composition of the diet.
In chapter 5 we investigated whether flavonoids from other flavonoid subclasses can exert the same effects as we observed for quercetin. Effects of quercetin, hesperetin, epicatechin, apigenin and anthocyanins, in C57BL/6JOlaHsd male adult mice fed a high-fat diet for 12 weeks were compared, relative to a normal-fat diet. High-fat diet-induced body weight gain was significantly lowered by all flavonoids (17-29%), but most by quercetin. Quercetin significantly lowered high-fat diet-induced hepatic lipid accumulation (by 71%). High-fat diet-induced increases of mesenteric adipose tissue weight and serum leptin levels were significantly lowered by quercetin, hesperetin, and anthocyanins. Adipocyte cell size and adipose tissue inflammation were not affected.
The effects on body weight and adiposity could not be explained by individual significant differences in energy intake, energy expenditure, nor by differences in activity. Lipid metabolism was not changed as measured by indirect calorimetry or expression of known lipid metabolic genes in liver and white adipose tissue. Hepatic expression of Cyp2b9 was strongly down-regulated by all flavonoids. Overall, all five flavonoids lowered parameters of high-fat diet-induced adiposity, with quercetin being most effective.
Next to the beneficial health effects of flavonoids, the safety of flavonoids is under discussion, mainly because of potential genotoxic effects found for quercetin in vitro. Therefore, in chapter 6 the in vivo genotoxicity of this flavonoid was studied by transcriptome analyses in two tissues, small intestine and liver, where the highest exposure to quercetin is expected. This is especially of interest in view of high intake by widely available food supplements. Quercetin (0.33%) supplemented to a high-fat diet was administered to C57BL/6JOlaHsd male adult mice during 12 weeks. Serum alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase levels revealed no indications for hepatotoxicity. General microarray pathway analysis of liver and small intestinal tissue samples showed no regulation of genotoxicity related pathways. In addition, analysis of DNA damage pathways in these tissues did also not point at genotoxicity. Furthermore, comparison with a published classifier set of transcripts for identifying genotoxic compounds did not reveal any similarities in the regulation of these classifier set by quercetin. Available microarray datasets of known genotoxic liver carcinogens, 2-acetylaminofluorene and aflatoxin B1 in mice were taken along as positive controls for comparison, and indeed showed genotoxic properties (regulation of genotoxic related genes) in the analyses. This transcriptomic analysis showed that supplementation with quercetin at ~350 mg/kg bw/day for 12 weeks did not induce genotoxicity in liver and small intestine.
In conclusion, we have shown in vivo efficacy of flavonoids reflected by effects on metabolic health parameters, including hepatic lipid metabolism. These effects on hepatic lipid metabolism seemed to be related or influenced by the transcription factor CAR. The dietary contexts appeared to modify the health effects. The five studied flavonoids in general showed the same effects, with quercetin being the most effective. No genotoxicity of quercetin was found by transcriptome analyses in liver and small intestine. Overall, we have obtained indications for beneficial health effects of flavonoids in mice, which makes it interesting to study if these effects can be extrapolated to humans to further explore their potential as functional compounds of dietary flavonoid intake.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Award date||13 May 2015|
|Place of Publication||Wageningen|
|Publication status||Published - 2015|
- fatty acids
- body weight
- lipid metabolism
- cardiovascular diseases
- adipose tissue