Despite limited bioavailability and rapid degradation, dietary anthocyanins are antioxidants with cardiovascular benefits. This study tested the hypothesis that the antioxidant protection conferred by the anthocyanin, delphinidin, is mediated by modulation of endogenous antioxidant defences, driven by its degradation product, gallic acid. Delphinidin was found to degrade rapidly (t1/2 30 min), generating gallic acid as a major degradation product. Both delphinidin and gallic acid generated oxygen-centred radicals at high (100 μM) concentrations in vitro. In a cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cell model of oxidative stress, the antioxidant protective effects of both delphinidin and gallic acid displayed a hormesic profile; 100 μM concentrations of both were cytotoxic, but relatively low concentrations (100 nM-1 μM) protected the cells and were associated with increased intracellular glutathione. We conclude that delphinidin is intrinsically unstable and unlikely to confer any direct antioxidant activity in vivo yet it offered antioxidant protection to cells at low concentrations. This paradox might be explained by the ability of the degradation product, gallic acid, to confer benefit. The findings are important in understanding the mode of protection conferred by anthocyanins and reinforce the necessity to conduct in vitro experiments at biologically relevant concentrations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology