Date: 12 Mar 2010

Nutritional improvement of the endothelial control of vascular tone by polyphenols: role of NO and EDHF

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Numerous studies indicate that regular intake of polyphenol-rich beverages (red wine and tea) and foods (chocolate, fruit, and vegetables) is associated with a protective effect on the cardiovascular system in humans and animals. Beyond the well-known antioxidant properties of polyphenols, several other mechanisms have been shown to contribute to their beneficial cardiovascular effects. Indeed, both experimental and clinical studies indicate that polyphenols improve the ability of endothelial cells to control vascular tone. Experiments with isolated arteries have shown that polyphenols cause nitric oxide (NO)-mediated endothelium-dependent relaxations and increase the endothelial formation of NO. The polyphenol-induced NO formation is due to the redox-sensitive activation of the phosphatidylinositol3-kinase/Akt pathway leading to endothelial NO synthase (eNOS) activation subsequent to its phosphorylation on Ser 1177. Besides the phosphatidylinositol3-kinase/Akt pathway, polyphenols have also been shown to activate eNOS by increasing the intracellular free calcium concentration and by activating estrogen receptors in endothelial cells. In addition to causing a rapid and sustained activation of eNOS by phosphorylation, polyphenols can increase the expression level of eNOS in endothelial cells leading to an increased formation of NO. Moreover, the polyphenol-induced endothelium-dependent relaxation also involves endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor, besides NO, in several types of arteries. Altogether, polyphenols have the capacity to improve the endothelial control of vascular tone not only in several experimental models of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension but also in healthy and diseased humans. Thus, these experimental and clinical studies highlight the potential of polyphenol-rich sources to provide vascular protection in health and disease.