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Quercetin suppresses inflammation by reducing ERK1/2 phosphorylation and NF kappa B activation in Leptin-induced Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells (HUVECs)

Mochamad Rasjad Indra1*, Satuman Karyono1, Retty Ratnawati1 and Safarina G Malik2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, Brawijaya University, Jl. Veteran, Malang 65145, East Java, Indonesia

2 Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology, Jl. Diponegoro 69, Jakarta 10430, Indonesia

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BMC Research Notes 2013, 6:275  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-6-275

Published: 16 July 2013



High concentrations of plasma leptin and the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines in leptin-resistance in obesity have been reported to trigger endothelial dysfunction. The objective of this study was to elucidate the role of quercetin in modulating leptin-induced inflammation as assessed by the levels of Ob-Ra expression, ERK1/2 phosphorylation, NF-kappa B activation and TNF-alpha secretion in umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) in vitro.


HUVECs were exposed to either control levels (0 ng/ml) or 500 ng/mL leptin (L) for 48 hours, followed by control or 125 uM quercetin (Q) for another 6 h. The experimental groups were as follows: L0Q0, L0Q125, L500Q0, L500Q125. The presence of the short chain leptin receptor isoform Ob-Ra in HUVECs was determined by Western blot and immunocytochemistry analyses. Ob-Ra expression, ERK1/2 phosphorylation, NF-kappa B activation and TNF-alpha secretion were quantified by ELISA, and NF-kappa B activationby immunofluorescence staining. Our results showed that Ob-Ra expression, ERK1/2 phosphorylation and NF-kappa B activation increased significantly after 500 ng/mL leptin exposure (1.8x, 1.5x, 6.2x for Ob-Ra, ERK1/2 and NF-kappa B, respectively), but were reduced by addition of 125 uM quercetin (0.7x, 0.3x and 0.4x for Ob-Ra, ERK1/2 and NF-kappa B, respectively), and that quercetin could also partially suppress leptin-induced TNF-alpha secretion (3.8x) by 0.8x.


Exposure of HUVECs to leptin up-regulated Ob-Ra expression and elevated ERK1/2 phosphorylation and NFkB activation, and increased TNF-alpha secretion. These effects strongly suppressed by quercetin, with the exception of TNF-alpha which was partially suppressed. The findings might be of clinical significance, as endothelial dysfunction that could lead to cardiovascular disease is preventable, and quercetin is a natural compound found in various plants and fruits.

Leptin; Quercetin; Ob-Ra; ERK1/2; NFκB; TNFα; HUVECs