Open Access Research

Bimodal action of the flavonoid quercetin on basophil function: an investigation of the putative biochemical targets

Salvatore Chirumbolo1*, Marta Marzotto1, Anita Conforti2, Antonio Vella3, Riccardo Ortolani3 and Paolo Bellavite1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pathology and Diagnostics, sect. General Pathology, strada Le Grazie 8, 37134 Verona, Italy

2 Department of Medicine and Public Health-sect. Pharmacology, University of Verona, Italy, strada Le Grazie 8, 37134 Verona, Italy

3 Immunopathology Service, University Hospital, Policlinico GB Rossi, piazzale AL Scuro 10, 37134 Verona, Italy

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Clinical and Molecular Allergy 2010, 8:13  doi:10.1186/1476-7961-8-13

Published: 17 September 2010

Abstract

Background

Flavonoids, a large group of polyphenolic metabolites derived from plants have received a great deal of attention over the last several decades for their properties in inflammation and allergy. Quercetin, the most abundant of plant flavonoids, exerts a modulatory action at nanomolar concentrations on human basophils. As this mechanism needs to be elucidated, in this study we focused the possible signal transduction pathways which may be affected by this compound. Methods: K2-EDTA derived leukocyte buffy coats enriched in basophil granulocytes were treated with different concentrations of quercetin and triggered with anti-IgE, fMLP, the calcium ionophore A23187 and the phorbol ester PMA in different experimental conditions. Basophils were captured in a flow cytometry analysis as CD123bright/HLADRnon expressing cells and fluorescence values of the activation markers CD63-FITC or CD203c-PE were used to produce dose response curves. The same population was assayed for histamine release.

Results

Quercetin inhibited the expression of CD63 and CD203c and the histamine release in basophils activated with anti-IgE or with the ionophore: the IC50 in the anti-IgE model was higher than in the ionophore model and the effects were more pronounced for CD63 than for CD203c. Nanomolar concentrations of quercetin were able to prime both markers expression and histamine release in the fMLP activation model while no effect of quercetin was observed when basophils were activated with PMA. The specific phosphoinositide-3 kinase (PI3K) inhibitor wortmannin exhibited the same behavior of quercetin in anti-IgE and fMLP activation, thus suggesting a role for PI3K involvement in the priming mechanism.

Conclusions

These results rule out a possible role of protein kinase C in the complex response of basophil to quercetin, while indirectly suggest PI3K as the major intracellular target of this compound also in human basophils.