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The Chemical Basis of the Antinitrosating Action of Polyphenolic Cancer Chemopreventive Agents

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A regular intake of polyphenolic agents widely found in fruits and vegetables is believed to decrease the incidence of certain forms of cancer, due in part to their ability to act as antinitrosating agents capable of lowering the impact of toxic nitrosation processes and carcinogenic nitrosamine formation within the acidic environment of the stomach. As a result, the study of the interactions between reactive nitrogen species and phenolic antioxidants has emerged as an area of great promise for delineating innovative strategies in cancer chemoprevention. The burst of interest in (poly)phenolic cancer chemopreventive agents of dietary origin is exemplified by the exponential growth of scientific literature on green tea catechins, as well as on hydroxycinnamates, hydroxytyrosol, flavonoids and other phenolic compounds of the Mediterranean diet, currently regarded as a cultural model for dietary improvement.

However, as is often the case with rapidly growing fields, most of these advances have not yet been assessed nor properly integrated into a well defined conceptual framework, whereby several aspects of the chemistry underlying their mechanism of action have remained either obscure or have been taken for granted without sufficient experimental support. The objective of this paper is to provide an account of the chemical mechanisms through which polyphenolic compounds of dietary origin may react with nitrite-derived nitrosating species under conditions that model those occurring in the stomach and other acidic biological compartments. The relevance of this chemistry to the actual role of these substances in DNA protection and cancer prevention remains a critical goal for future studies.

Keywords: Antinitrosating action mechanism; Green tea catechins; Hydroxycinnamates; Nitrosating species; Olive oil phenols; Polyphenol dietary origin; Polyphenol nitr(os)ation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Naples “Federico II”, Via Cinthia 4, I-80126 Naples, Italy.

Publication date: November 1, 2006

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  • Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.

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