Flavonoid-rich diets are associated with a lower mortality from cardiovascular disease. This has been linked to improvements in endothelial function. However, the specific flavonoids, or biologically active metabolites, conferring these beneficial effects have yet to be fully defined. In this experimental study of the effect of flavonoids on endothelial function cultured endothelial cells have been used as a bioassay with endothelin-1 (ET-1) synthesis being measured an index of the response.
Evaluation of the relative effects of extracts of cranberry juice compared to apple, cocoa, red wine, and green tea showed inhibition of ET-1 synthesis was dependent primarily on their oligomeric procyanidin content. Procyanidin-rich extracts of cranberry juice triggered morphological changes in endothelial cells with reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton and increased immunostaining for phosphotyrosine residues. These actions were independent of antioxidant activity. Comparison of the effects of apple procyanidin monomers through heptamer showed a clear structure-activity
relationship. Although monomer, dimer, and trimer had little effect on ET-1 synthesis, procyanidin tetramer, pentamer, hexamer, and heptamer produced concentration-dependent decreases with IC50 values of 5.4, 1.6, 0.9, and 0.7 μM, respectively. Levels of ET-1 mRNA showed a similar
pattern of decreases, which were inversely correlated with increased expression of Kruppel-like factor 2 (KLF2), a key endothelial transcription factor with a broad range of antiatherosclerotic actions including suppression of ET-1 synthesis. Future investigations of procyanidin-rich products should assess the role KLF2 induction plays in the beneficial vascular effects of high flavonoid consumption.