Small Chemical Changes Dietary Flavonoids Effects Human Immune System

Human immune system has large effect with small changes to dietary flavonoids

11:04 AM, 2nd September 2013
university of york research news
Dianna Bowles, Professor, University of York.

YORK, UK: Scientists at the University of York have discovered that very small chemical changes to dietary flavonoids cause very large effects when the plant natural products are tested for their impact on the human immune system.

Plants have the ability to make thousands of different small molecules – an average leaf for example, produces around 20,000. Many of these are found in a typical diet and some are already known to have medicinal properties with effects on health, diseases and general well-being. Now plant biologists and immunologists at York have joined forces to examine a very closely related family of these small molecules (flavonoids) to establish how tiny changes to their chemical structures affect their bio-activity.

The research led by Dianna Bowles, Professor, University of York and Paul Kaye, Professor, University of York, developed the robust assay system involving human cells to assess the impacts of the different structures.

“We were measuring how flavonoids affected the production of inflammatory mediators by cells stimulated by microbial products. We found that the way in which a flavonoid scaffold was decorated had massive effects on how the cells responded. If a methyl group was attached at one site, there would be no effect; methylate another site, and the cells would produce far greater amounts of these inflammatory mediators. Therefore, the site of attachment on the structural scaffold was all-important in determining the bioactivity of the small molecule,” said Bowles.

“Plant products in our diet have immense molecular diversity and consequently also have a huge potential for affecting our health and well-being. We are only at the beginning of discovering the multitude of their effects,” added Bowles.

“The research demonstrates the level of control that the shape of a molecule can have on its recognition by our immune system cells. This is really important since we can use information such as this to design new drugs for clinical use, as novel immunomodulators, for example,” said Kaye.

© University of York News

 

http://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2013/research/little-changes-large-effects/ 

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