ABSTRACT: Plant flavonoids are not only known as powerful antioxidants, but also as cell metabolism regulators. It has been postulated that they are able to control cell signal pathways by targeting receptors on the cell surface or by intercalating the lipid bilayer of membranes. Some flavonoids can increase lipid viscosity and decrease the cooperativity of hydrocarbon chain melting, while others can considerably decrease the lipid melting temperature, thus providing additional freedom for lipid diffusion. Here we discuss the ability of flavonoids to influence phase transition and lateral segregation of lipids, responsible for the formation of membrane compartments known as lipid rafts. The thermodynamic parameters of the bilayer determined by lipid packing characteristics and by lateral segregation of the bilayer are expected to depend on the location of flavonoid molecules in the bilayer. Flavonoid molecules preferably located in the hydrophobic region of the bilayer can initiate formation of raft-like domains (raft-making effect), while the molecules located in the polar interface region of the bilayer can fluidize membranes (raft-breaking effect), or initiate formation of interdigitated or micellar structures. Accordingly, we expect that in cellular membranes flavonoids can influence the appearance and development of rafts or raft-like membrane domains and thus influence the lateral diffusion of lipid molecules. Because rafts participate in cellular signal transduction, endocytosis and transmembrane translocation of different compounds, flavonoids may control cell metabolism by modulating the bilayer state.
Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry 08/2008; 314(1-2):65-71. · 2.06 Impact Factor