Quercetin, a plant flavonol from the flavonoid group of polyphenols, is found in many fruits, vegetables, leaves, and grains; red onions and kale are common foods containing appreciable content of quercetin. It has a bitter flavor and is used as an ingredient in dietary supplements, beverages, and foods.
5,7,3′,4′-flavon-3-ol, Sophoretin, Meletin, Quercetine, Xanthaurine, Quercetol, Quercitin, Quertine, Flavin meletin
3D model (JSmol)
|Molar mass||302.236 g/mol|
|Appearance||yellow crystalline powder|
|Melting point||316 °C (601 °F; 589 K)|
|Practically insoluble in water; soluble in aqueous alkaline solutions|
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Quercetin is a flavonoid widely distributed in nature. The name has been used since 1857, and is derived from quercetum (oak forest), after Quercus. It is a naturally occurring polar auxin transport inhibitor.
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In red onions, higher concentrations of quercetin occur in the outermost rings and in the part closest to the root, the latter being the part of the plant with the highest concentration. One study found that organically grown tomatoes had 79% more quercetin than non-organically grown fruit. Quercetin is present in various kinds of honey from different plant sources.
In plants, phenylalanine is converted to 4-coumaroyl-CoA in a series of steps known as the general phenylpropanoid pathway using phenylalanine ammonia-lyase, cinnamate-4-hydroxylase, and 4-coumaroyl-CoA-ligase. One molecule of 4-coumaroyl-CoA is added to three molecules of malonyl-CoA to form tetrahydroxychalcone using 7,2′-dihydroxy-4′-methoxyisoflavanol synthase. Tetrahydroxychalcone is then converted into naringenin using chalcone isomerase.
Naringenin is converted into eriodictyol using flavanoid 3′-hydroxylase. Eriodictyol is then converted into dihydroquercetin with flavanone 3-hydroxylase, which is then converted into quercetin using flavonol synthase.
Quercetin is the aglycone form of a number of other flavonoid glycosides, such as rutin and quercitrin, found in citrus fruit, buckwheat and onions. Quercetin forms the glycosides quercitrin and rutin together with rhamnose and rutinose, respectively. Likewise guaijaverin is the 3-O-arabinoside, hyperoside is the 3-O-galactoside, isoquercitin is the 3-O-glucoside and spiraeoside is the 4′-O-glucoside. CTN-986 is a quercetin derivative found in cottonseeds and cottonseed oil. Miquelianin is the quercetin 3-O-β-D-glucuronopyranoside.
Rutin degradation pathwayEdit
The enzyme quercitrinase can be found in Aspergillus flavus. This enzyme hydrolyzes the glycoside quercitrin to release quercetin and L-rhamnose. It is an enzyme in the rutin catabolic pathway.
The bioavailability of quercetin in humans is low and highly variable (0–50%), and it is rapidly cleared with an elimination half-life of 1–2 hours after ingesting quercetin foods or supplements. Following dietary ingestion, quercetin undergoes rapid and extensive metabolism that makes the biological effects presumed from in vitro studies unlikely to apply in vivo.
In rats, quercetin did not undergo any significant phase I metabolism. In contrast, quercetin did undergo extensive phase II (conjugation) to produce metabolites that are more polar than the parent substance and hence are more rapidly excreted from the body. The meta-hydroxyl group of catechol is methylated by catechol-O-methyltransferase. Four of the five hydroxyl groups of quercetin are glucuronidated by UDP-glucuronosyltransferase. The exception is the 5-hydroxyl group of the flavonoid ring which generally does not undergo glucuronidation. The major metabolites of orally absorbed quercetin are quercetin-3-glucuronide, 3'-methylquercetin-3-glucuronide, and quercetin-3'-sulfate.
In vitro pharmacologyEdit
Quercetin has been reported to inhibit the oxidation of other molecules and hence is classified as an antioxidant. Quercetin contains a polyphenolic chemical substructure that stops oxidation by acting as a scavenger of free radicals that are responsible for oxidative chain reactions.
Quercetin also activates or inhibits the activities of a number of proteins. For example, quercetin is a non-specific protein kinase enzyme inhibitor. Quercetin has also been reported to have estrogenic (female sex hormone-like) activities by activating estrogen receptors. Quercetin activates both estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) and beta (ERβ) with binding IC50 values of 1015 nM and 113 nM, respectively. Hence quercetin is somewhat ERβ selective (9 fold) and is roughly two to three orders of magnitude less potent than the endogenous estrogenic hormone 17β-estradiol. In human breast cancer cell lines, quercetin has also been found to act as an agonist of the G protein-coupled estrogen receptor (GPER).
Quercetin has been studied in basic research and small clinical trials. While quercetin supplements have been promoted for the treatment of cancer and various other diseases, there is no evidence that quercetin (via supplements or in food) is useful to treat cancer or any disease. The US FDA has issued warning letters to emphasize that quercetin is neither a defined nutrient nor an antioxidant, cannot be assigned a dietary content level, and is not regulated as a drug to treat any human disease.
In preliminary human studies, oral intake of quercetin in doses up to one gram per day over three months did not cause adverse effects. The safety of using quercetin in dietary supplements during pregnancy and lactation has not been established.
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