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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Methoxylation enhances stilbene bioactivity in Caenorhabditis elegans

Mark A Wilson1, Agnes M Rimando2 and Catherine A Wolkow1*

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory of Neurosciences, National Institute on Aging, Intramural Research Program, NIH, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA

2 Natural Products Utilization Research Unit, ARS, US Department of Agriculture, PO Box 8048, University, MS 38677, USA

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BMC Pharmacology 2008, 8:15  doi:10.1186/1471-2210-8-15

Published: 13 August 2008

Abstract

Background

Stilbenes are 1,2-diphenylethylene congeners produced by plants in response to stress. Many stilbenes also exhibit xenobiotic activities in animal cells, such as inhibition of cancer cell growth, neuroprotection, and immune modulation. In vivo, hydroxylated stilbenes are metabolized by glucuronidation to facilitate excretion. Methoxylated stilbenes are metabolized more slowly, which may have a positive effect on in vivo bioactivity. Here, we have directly compared in vivo bioactivities of methoxylated and hydroxylated stilbenes in a whole organism using the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, an advantageous experimental system for such studies due to its rapid lifecycle, genetic amenability and relatively low-cost.

Results

Toxicity towards C. elegans adults was observed for trimethoxylated and dimethoxylated stilbenes, as well as the monomethoxylated stilbene desoxyrhapontigenin. Toxicity was not observed for the monomethoxylated stilbene, pinostilbene, nor for hydroxylated stilbenes. The methoxylated stilbenes that exhibited toxicity also showed stronger inhibitory effects than the hydroxylated stilbenes on germline tumor growth in gld-1(q485) adults. However, steady-state levels of three inhibitory methoxylated stilbenes did not directly correlate to their relative bioactivities.

Conclusion

These findings demonstrate that, for the group of stilbenes investigated, methoxylation generally increased bioactivity in vivo in a whole organism, with the exception of pinostilbene. Differences in bioactivity in C. elegans adults did not appear to correlate with differential uptake. Rather, we speculate that methoxylated stilbenes may have increased interactions with biological targets in vivo or may interact with specific targets unaffected by hydroxylated stilbenes. The potent activities of methoxylated stilbenes provide a basis for further investigations to identify in vivo targets for these compounds.