Very small chemical changes to dietary flavonoids may affect immune system of humans in a much bigger way discover scientists.
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.
Professor Dianna 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 said that they were measuring how flavonoids affected the production of inflammatory mediators by cells stimulated by microbial products.
She said that they found that the way in which a flavonoid scaffold was decorated had massive effects on how the cells responded.
Bowles asserted that 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.
She explained that therefore, the site of attachment on the structural scaffold was all-important in determining the bioactivity of the small molecule.
Bowles asserted that plant products in our diet have immense molecular diversity and consequently also have a huge potential for affecting our health and well-being.
The research has been published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry.