Flavonoids are a large class of naturally occurring compounds widely present in fruits, vegetables, and beverages derived from plants. Reports have suggested that these compounds might be useful for the prevention of a number of diseases, partly due to their antiinflammatory properties. It has been demonstrated that flavonoids are able to inhibit expression of isoforms of inducible nitric oxide synthase, ciclooxygenase and lipooxygenase, which are responsible for the production of a great amount of nitric oxide, prostanoids and leukotrienes, as well as other mediators of the inflammatory process such as cytokines, chemokines or adhesion molecules. Modulation of the cascade of molecular events leading to the over-expression of those mediators include inhibition of transcription factors such as nuclear factor kappa B, activator protein 1, signal transducers and activators of transcription, CCAAT/enhancer binding protein and others. Effects on the binding capacity of transcription factors may be regulated through the inhibition of protein kinases involved in signal transduction, such as mitogen activated protein kinases. Although the numerous studies published with in vitro approaches allow identifying molecular mechanisms of flavonoid effects, the limited bioavailability of these molecules makes necessary validation in humans. Whatever the case, the data available make clear the potential utility of dietary flavonoids or new flavonoid-based agents for the possible treatment of inflammatory diseases. The present review summarizes recent research data focusing on the modulation of the expression of different inflammatory mediators by flavonoids and the effects on cell signaling pathways responsible for their anti-inflammatory activity.
Keywords: Flavonoids, inflammation, nitric oxide synthase, cyclooxygenase, lipooxygenase, adhesion molecules, nuclear factor kappa B, mitogen activated protein kinases