Life or death: Neuroprotective and anticancer effects of quercetin

UNESCO CHAIR "Neuroactive natural products", Department of Neurochemistry, Instituto de Investigaciones Biológicas Clemente Estable, Montevideo, Uruguay.
Journal of ethnopharmacology (Impact Factor: 2.94). 07/2012; 143(2):383-96. DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.07.005
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Quercetin is a ubiquitous flavonoid that is present in numerous plants that are utilized in many different cultures for their nervous system and anticancer effects. To better understand the neuroprotective and antiproliferative activities of quercetin, we present a comprehensive review of the divergent actions that contribute to the ethnopharmacological profile of these plants.
The pharmacological activities of quercetin that modulate antioxidation/oxidation/kinase-signaling pathways might be differentially elicited in neurons compared with malignant cells, ultimately promoting cell survival or death in a cell type- and metabolism-specific manner. Whereas the broad antioxidation and anti-inflammatory activities of quercetin are important for neuronal survival, the oxidative, kinase- and cell cycle-inhibitory, apoptosis-inducing effects of quercetin are essential for its anticancer effects. The diverse mechanistic interactions and activities of quercetin that modulate the phosphorylation state of molecules as well as gene expression would alter the interconnected and concerted intracellular signaling equilibrium, either inhibiting or strengthening survival signals. These mechanisms, which have been mainly observed in in vitro studies, cannot be easily translated into an explanation of the divergent simultaneous neuroprotective and anticancer effects observed in vivo. This is in part due to low bioavailability in plasma and in the brain, as well as the nature of the actual active molecules.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of chronic quercetin intake, which is ethnopharmacologically meaningful, as many plants that are chronically ingested by people contain quercetin. Although quercetin and quercetin-containing plants exhibit potential as therapeutic modalities in neuropathology and in cancer, the data collectively highlight the need to elucidate issues such as bioavailability as well as its correlation with effectiveness at biomarkers in vivo. There would be an increased potentential of these plants for chemoprevention and neuropathology prevention.

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