TitleQuercetin affects glutathione levels and redox ratio in human aortic endothelial cells not through oxidation but formation and cellular export of quercetin-glutathione conjugates and upregulation of glutamate-cysteine ligase.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsLi C, Zhang W-J, Choi J, Frei B
JournalRedox Biol
Date Published2016 10
KeywordsAntioxidants, Aorta, Cells, Cultured, Endothelial Cells, Glutamate-Cysteine Ligase, Glutathione, Humans, Lipopolysaccharides, Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins, Oxidants, Oxidation-Reduction, Oxidative Stress, Quercetin

Endothelial dysfunction due to vascular inflammation and oxidative stress critically contributes to the etiology of atherosclerosis. The intracellular redox environment plays a key role in regulating endothelial cell function and is intimately linked to cellular thiol status, including and foremost glutathione (GSH). In the present study we investigated whether and how the dietary flavonoid, quercetin, affects GSH status of human aortic endothelial cells (HAEC) and their response to oxidative stress. We found that treating cells with buthionine sulfoximine to deplete cellular GSH levels significantly reduced the capacity of quercetin to inhibit lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced oxidant production. Furthermore, incubation of HAEC with quercetin caused a transient decrease and then full recovery of cellular GSH concentrations. The initial decline in GSH was not accompanied by a corresponding increase in glutathione disulfide (GSSG). To the contrary, GSSG levels, which were less than 0.5% of GSH levels at baseline (0.26±0.01 vs. 64.7±1.9nmol/mg protein, respectively), decreased by about 25% during incubation with quercetin. As a result, the GSH: GSSG ratio increased by about 70%, from 253±7 to 372±23. These quercetin-induced changes in GSH and GSSG levels were not affected by treating HAEC with 500µM ascorbic acid phosphate for 24h to increase intracellular ascorbate levels. Incubation of HAEC with quercetin also led to the appearance of extracellular quercetin-glutathione conjugates, which was paralleled by upregulation of the multidrug resistance protein 1 (MRP1). Furthermore, quercetin slightly but significantly increased mRNA and protein levels of glutamate-cysteine ligase (GCL) catalytic and modifier subunits. Taken together, our results suggest that quercetin causes loss of GSH in HAEC, not because of oxidation but due to formation and cellular export of quercetin-glutathione conjugates. Induction by quercetin of GCL subsequently restores GSH levels, thereby suppressing LPS-induced oxidant production.

Alternate JournalRedox Biol
PubMed ID27572418
PubMed Central IDPMC5011167