Genistein, a natural bioactive compound derived from legumes, has drawn wide attention during the last decade because of its potentially beneficial effects on some human degenerative diseases. It has a weak estrogenic effect and is a well-known non-specific tyrosine kinase inhibitor at pharmacological doses. Epidemiological studies show that genistein intake is inversely associated with the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Data from animal and in vitro studies suggest a protective role of genistein in cardiovascular events. However, the mechanisms of the genistein action on vascular protective effects are unclear. Past extensive studies exploring its hypolipidemic effect resulted in contradictory data. Genistein also is a relatively poor antioxidant. However, genistein protects against pro-inflammatory factor-induced vascular endothelial barrier dysfunction and inhibits leukocyte-endothelium interaction, thereby modulating vascular inflammation, a major event in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Recent studies found that genistein exerts a novel non-genomic action by targeting on important signaling molecules in vascular endothelial cells (ECs). Genistein rapidly activates endothelial nitric oxide synthase and production of nitric oxide in ECs. This genistein effect is novel since it is independent of its known effects, but mediated by the cyclic adenosine monophosphate/protein kinase A (cAMP/PKA) cascade. Further studies demonstrated that genistein directly stimulates the plasma membrane-associated adenylate cyclases, leading to activation of the cAMP signaling pathway. In addition, genistein activates peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors, ligand-activated nuclear receptors important to normal vascular function. Furthermore, genistein reduces reactive oxygen species (ROS) by attenuating the expression of ROS-producing enzymes. These new findings reveal the novel roles for genistein in the regulation of vascular function and provide a basis for further investigating its therapeutic potential for inflammatory-related vascular disease.
Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA.
Publication date: October 1, 2007
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