Methylation, a chemical process of adding structures called methyl groups to flavonoids, increases their ability to reduce inflammation and other harmful events in cells.
Methylation – the addition of a methyl group (CH4 – one carbon attached to three hydrogens) to another molecule – is an essential and vital biochemical process within the human body that is involved in a large number of biochemical pathways involving neurotransmitters, detoxification, cardiovascular health, eye health, muscle health, bone health, and redox ( antioxidant) balance. A number of specific nutrients are necessary for methylation to occur normally.
Methylation depends on you having methyl donors on board. Methylcobalamin is a form of vitamin B-12 that is a methyl donor. Methyl folate is a a form of folic acid that also supports methylation. Pyridoxyl 5 phosphate is an active form of vitamin B-6 that contributes to this precess as well. Other methyl donors include trimethylglycine and N Acetyl Cysteine.
Now scientists at the University of York have
discovered that very small chemical changes to dietary flavonoids cause very
large effects when the plant natural products are tested for their impact on
the human immune system.
Plants are capable of making tens of thousands of
different small molecules – an average leaf for example, produces around
20,000. Many of these are found in a typical diet and some are already known to
have medicinal properties with effects on health, diseases and general
Now plant biologists and immunologists at York
have joined forces to examine a very closely related family of these small
molecules (flavonoids) to establish how tiny changes to their chemical
structures affect their bioactivity.
The research, published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry, has
important implications for dietary advice and may bring innovation to the development of new pharmaceuticals
from plant nutraceuticals.
Researchers from the Centre
for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP) and the Centre for Immunology and Infection (CII) in
the University’s Department of Biology designed experiments to test the
bioactivity of plant-derived flavonoids.
Bowles, a plant biochemist and founding Director of CNAP, led the
research with Professor Paul Kaye,
the Director of CII, who developed the robust assay system involving human
cells to assess the impacts of the different structures.
Professor Bowles, who referred to the research in
a panel discussion on ‘Nature’s Marvellous
Medicines‘ at the recent Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition,
said: “We were measuring how flavonoids affected the production of
inflammatory mediators by cells stimulated by microbial products. We found
that the way in which a flavonoid scaffold was decorated had massive effects on
how the cells responded.
If a methyl group was attached at one site, there
would be no effect; methylate another site, and the cells would produce far
greater amounts of these inflammatory mediators. Therefore, the site of
attachment on the structural scaffold was all-important in determining the
bioactivity of the small molecule.
products in our diet have immense
diversity and consequently
have a huge potential for
our health and well being.
only at the beginning of
the multitude of their effects.”
Professor Kaye added: “The research
demonstrates the level of control that the shape of a molecule can have on its
recognition by our immune system cells. This is really important since we can
use information such as this to design new drugs for clinical use, as novel
immunomodulators, for example”.
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