Journal of trace elements in medicine and biology : organ of the Society for Minerals and Trace Elements (GMS)

Oleuropein shows copper complexing properties and noxious effect on cultured SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells depending on cell copper content.

PMID 28965580


The secoiridoid oleuropein is a non-flavonoid polyphenol, found in the fruit, leaves and food derivatives from Olea europea. Like other polyphenols it shows a very low toxicity towards healthy tissues and a protective action against cancer or neurodegeneration, but its mechanism of action is not yet understood. In the present report we have used optical and ESR spectroscopy as well as molecular modelling to demonstrate that oleuropein forms a complex with the transition metal copper; the dysmetabolism of this metal is suspected to be involved in both cancer and neurodegeneration. Experiments carried out with the aglycon derivative of oleuropein, produced by β-glycosidase treatment of oleuropein glycoside, showed that also the aglycon forms copper-complexes, but with different spectroscopic features than the glycosidic form. Molecular modelling analysis confirmed that two oleuropein molecules (glycosidic or aglycon forms) can easily coordinate one copper ion. The relationship between oleuropein and copper was investigated in SH-SY5Y human neuroblastoma cells. When cells were depleted of copper by treatment with the copper chelator triethylenetetramine (Trien), that binds copper with higher affinity than oleuropein, oleuropein was less toxic than to copper-adequate cells. Conversely, incubation of SH-SY5Y cells with exogenous copper sulphate increased cell susceptibility to oleuropein. Furthermore SH-SY5Y cells differentiated by retinoic acid pre-treatment showed a lower level of copper, and were more resistant to oleuropein treatment. The oleuropein aglycon was not toxic towards SH-SY5Y cells. In conclusion, the copper-oleuropein complex may be involved in the toxicity of oleuropein towards tumour cells, depending on their copper level.

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Triethylenetetramine tetrahydrochloride, 97%
C6H18N4 · 4HCl