PloS one

Quercetin Attenuates Inflammatory Responses in BV-2 Microglial Cells: Role of MAPKs on the Nrf2 Pathway and Induction of Heme Oxygenase-1.

PMID 26505893


A large group of flavonoids found in fruits and vegetables have been suggested to elicit health benefits due mainly to their anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. Recent studies with immune cells have demonstrated inhibition of these inflammatory responses through down-regulation of the pro-inflammatory pathway involving NF-κB and up-regulation of the anti-oxidative pathway involving Nrf2. In the present study, the murine BV-2 microglial cells were used to compare anti-inflammatory activity of quercetin and cyanidin, two flavonoids differing by their alpha, beta keto carbonyl group. Quercetin was 10 folds more potent than cyanidin in inhibition of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced NO production as well as stimulation of Nrf2-induced heme-oxygenase-1 (HO-1) protein expression. In addition, quercetin demonstrated enhanced ability to stimulate HO-1 protein expression when cells were treated with LPS. In an attempt to unveil mechanism(s) for quercetin to enhance Nrf2/HO-1 activity under endotoxic stress, results pointed to an increase in phospho-p38MAPK expression upon addition of quercetin to LPS. In addition, pharmacological inhibitors for phospho-p38MAPK and MEK1/2 for ERK1/2 further showed that these MAPKs target different sites of the Nrf2 pathway that regulates HO-1 expression. However, inhibition of LPS-induced NO by quercetin was not fully reversed by TinPPIX, a specific inhibitor for HO-1 activity. Taken together, results suggest an important role of quercetin to regulate inflammatory responses in microglial cells and its ability to upregulate HO-1 against endotoxic stress through involvement of MAPKs.