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1.  Bioactive Peptides in Cereals and Legumes: Agronomical, Biochemical and Clinical Aspects 
Cereals and legumes are key components of a healthy and balanced diet. Accordingly, many national nutritional guidelines emphasize their health promoting properties by placing them at the base of nutritional food pyramids. This concept is further validated by the observed correlation between a lower risk and occurrence of chronic diseases and the adherence to dietary patterns, like the Mediterranean diet, in which cereal grains, legumes and derived products represent a staple food. In the search for a dietary approach to control/prevent chronic degenerative diseases, protein derived bioactive peptides may represent one such source of health-enhancing components. These peptides may already be present in foods as natural components or may derive from hydrolysis by chemical or enzymatic treatments (digestion, hydrolysis or fermentation). Many reports are present in the literature regarding the bioactivity of peptides in vitro and a wide range of activities has been described, including antimicrobial properties, blood pressure-lowering (ACE inhibitory) effects, cholesterol-lowering ability, antithrombotic and antioxidant activities, enhancement of mineral absorption/bioavailability, cyto- or immunomodulatory effects, and opioid-like activities. However it is difficult to translate these observed effects to human. In fact, the active peptide may be degraded during digestion, or may not be absorbed or reach the target tissues at a concentration necessary to exert its function. This review will focus on bioactive peptides identified in cereals and legumes, from an agronomical and biochemical point of view, including considerations about requirements for the design of appropriate clinical trials necessary for the assessment of their nutraceutical effect in vivo.
PMCID: PMC4264216  PMID: 25405741
bioactive peptides; cereals; legumes; agronomical aspects; biological activities; clinical aspects
2.  Role of Plasma Membrane Caveolae/Lipid Rafts in VEGF-Induced Redox Signaling in Human Leukemia Cells 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:857504.
Caveolae/lipid rafts are membrane-rich cholesterol domains endowed with several functions in signal transduction and caveolin-1 (Cav-1) has been reported to be implicated in regulating multiple cancer-associated processes, ranging from tumor growth to multidrug resistance and angiogenesis. Vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 (VEGFR-2) and Cav-1 are frequently colocalized, suggesting an important role played by this interaction on cancer cell survival and proliferation. Thus, our attention was directed to a leukemia cell line (B1647) that constitutively produces VEGF and expresses the tyrosine-kinase receptor VEGFR-2. We investigated the presence of VEGFR-2 in caveolae/lipid rafts, focusing on the correlation between reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and glucose transport modulation induced by VEGF, peculiar features of tumor proliferation. In order to better understand the involvement of VEGF/VEGFR-2 in the redox signal transduction, we evaluated the effect of different compounds able to inhibit VEGF interaction with its receptor by different mechanisms, corroborating the obtained results by immunoprecipitation and fluorescence techniques. Results here reported showed that, in B1647 leukemia cells, VEGFR-2 is present in caveolae through association with Cav-1, demonstrating that caveolae/lipid rafts act as platforms for negative modulation of VEGF redox signal transduction cascades leading to glucose uptake and cell proliferation, suggesting therefore novel potential targets.
PMCID: PMC3967716  PMID: 24738074
3.  Role of Methylglyoxal in Alzheimer's Disease 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:238485.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common and lethal neurodegenerative disorder. The major hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease are extracellular aggregation of amyloid β peptides and, the presence of intracellular neurofibrillary tangles formed by precipitation/aggregation of hyperphosphorylated tau protein. The etiology of Alzheimer's disease is multifactorial and a full understanding of its pathogenesis remains elusive. Some years ago, it has been suggested that glycation may contribute to both extensive protein cross-linking and oxidative stress in Alzheimer's disease. Glycation is an endogenous process that leads to the production of a class of compounds known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Interestingly, increased levels of AGEs have been observed in brains of Alzheimer's disease patients. Methylglyoxal, a reactive intermediate of cellular metabolism, is the most potent precursor of AGEs and is strictly correlated with an increase of oxidative stress in Alzheimer's disease. Many studies are showing that methylglyoxal and methylglyoxal-derived AGEs play a key role in the etiopathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease.
PMCID: PMC3966409  PMID: 24734229
4.  Novel Targets of Sulforaphane in Primary Cardiomyocytes Identified by Proteomic Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83283.
Cardiovascular diseases represent the main cause of mortality in the industrialized world and the identification of effective preventive strategies is of fundamental importance. Sulforaphane, an isothiocyanate from cruciferous vegetables, has been shown to up-regulate phase II enzymes in cardiomyocytes and counteract oxidative stress-induced apoptosis. Aim of the present study was the identification and characterization of novel sulforaphane targets in cardiomyocytes applying a proteomic approach. Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry were used to generate protein profiles of primary neonatal rat cardiomyocytes treated and untreated with 5 µM sulforaphane for 1-48 h. According to image analysis, 64 protein spots were found as differentially expressed and their functional correlations were investigated using the MetaCore program. We mainly focused on 3 proteins: macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), CLP36 or Elfin, and glyoxalase 1, due to their possible involvement in cardioprotection. Validation of the time-dependent differential expression of these proteins was performed by western blotting. In particular, to gain insight into the cardioprotective role of the modulation of glyoxalase 1 by sulforaphane, further experiments were performed using methylglyoxal to mimic glycative stress. Sulforaphane was able to counteract methylglyoxal-induced apoptosis, ROS production, and glycative stress, likely through glyoxalase 1 up-regulation. In this study, we reported for the first time new molecular targets of sulforaphane, such as MIF, CLP36 and glyoxalase 1. In particular, we gave new insights into the anti-glycative role of sulforaphane in cardiomyocytes, confirming its pleiotropic behavior in counteracting cardiovascular diseases.
PMCID: PMC3859650  PMID: 24349480
5.  Steviol Glycosides Modulate Glucose Transport in Different Cell Types 
Extracts from Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, a plant native to Central and South America, have been used as a sweetener since ancient times. Currently, Stevia extracts are largely used as a noncaloric high-potency biosweetener alternative to sugar, due to the growing incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity, and metabolic disorders worldwide. Despite the large number of studies on Stevia and steviol glycosides in vivo, little is reported concerning the cellular and molecular mechanisms underpinning the beneficial effects on human health. The effect of four commercial Stevia extracts on glucose transport activity was evaluated in HL-60 human leukaemia and in SH-SY5Y human neuroblastoma cells. The extracts were able to enhance glucose uptake in both cellular lines, as efficiently as insulin. Our data suggest that steviol glycosides could act by modulating GLUT translocation through the PI3K/Akt pathway since treatments with both insulin and Stevia extracts increased the phosphorylation of PI3K and Akt. Furthermore, Stevia extracts were able to revert the effect of the reduction of glucose uptake caused by methylglyoxal, an inhibitor of the insulin receptor/PI3K/Akt pathway. These results corroborate the hypothesis that Stevia extracts could mimic insulin effects modulating PI3K/Akt pathway.
PMCID: PMC3845854  PMID: 24327825
6.  17β-Estradiol Enhances Signalling Mediated by VEGF-A-Delta-Like Ligand 4-Notch1 Axis in Human Endothelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71440.
Estrogens play a protective role in coronary artery disease. The mechanisms of action are still poorly understood, although a role for estrogens in stimulation of angiogenesis has been suggested. In several cell types, estrogens modulate the Notch pathway, which is involved in controlling angiogenesis downstream of vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A). The goal of our study was to establish whether estrogens modulate Notch activity in endothelial cells and the possible consequences on angiogenesis. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were treated with 17β-estradiol (E2) and the effects on Notch signalling were evaluated. E2 increased Notch1 processing as indicated by i) decreased levels of Notch1 transmembrane subunit ii) increased amount of Notch1 in nuclei iii) unaffected level of mRNA. Similarly, E2 increased the levels of the active form of Notch4 without altering Notch4 mRNA. Conversely, protein and mRNA levels of Notch2 were both reduced suggesting transcriptional repression of Notch2 by E2. Under conditions where Notch was activated by upregulation of Delta-like ligand 4 (Dll4) following VEGF-A treatment, E2 caused a further increase of the active form of Notch1, of the number of cells with nuclear Notch1 and of Hey2 mRNA. Estrogen receptor antagonist ICI 182.780 antagonized these effects suggesting that E2 modulation of Notch1 is mediated by estrogen receptors. E2 treatment abolished the increase in endothelial cells sprouting caused by Notch inhibition in a tube formation assay on 3D Matrigel and in mouse aortic ring explants. In conclusion, E2 affects several Notch pathway components in HUVECs, leading to an activation of the VEGF-A-Dll4-Notch1 axis and to a modulation of vascular branching when Notch signalling is inhibited. These results contribute to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular protection exerted by estrogens by uncovering a novel role of E2 in the Notch signalling-mediated modulation of angiogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3742772  PMID: 23967210
7.  Sulforaphane as a Potential Protective Phytochemical against Neurodegenerative Diseases 
A wide variety of acute and chronic neurodegenerative diseases, including ischemic/traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease, share common characteristics such as oxidative stress, misfolded proteins, excitotoxicity, inflammation, and neuronal loss. As no drugs are available to prevent the progression of these neurological disorders, intervention strategies using phytochemicals have been proposed as an alternative form of treatment. Among phytochemicals, isothiocyanate sulforaphane, derived from the hydrolysis of the glucosinolate glucoraphanin mainly present in Brassica vegetables, has demonstrated neuroprotective effects in several in vitro and in vivo studies. In particular, evidence suggests that sulforaphane beneficial effects could be mainly ascribed to its peculiar ability to activate the Nrf2/ARE pathway. Therefore, sulforaphane appears to be a promising compound with neuroprotective properties that may play an important role in preventing neurodegeneration.
PMCID: PMC3745957  PMID: 23983898
8.  Polyphenols in Exercise Performance and Prevention of Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage 
Although moderate physical exercise is considered an essential component of a healthy lifestyle that leads the organism to adapt itself to different stresses, exercise, especially when exhaustive, is also known to induce oxidative stress, inflammation, and muscle damage. Many efforts have been carried out to identify dietary strategies or micronutrients able to prevent or at least attenuate the exercise-induced muscle damage and stress. Unfortunately most studies have failed to show protection, and at the present time data supporting the protective effect of micronutrients, as antioxidant vitamins, are weak and trivial. This review focuses on those polyphenols, present in the plant kingdom, that have been recently suggested to exert some positive effects on exercise-induced muscle damage and oxidative stress. In the last decade flavonoids as quercetin, catechins, and other polyphenols as resveratrol have caught the scientists attention. However, at the present time drawing a clear and definitive conclusion seems to be untimely.
PMCID: PMC3742027  PMID: 23983900
9.  Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.) Bark Extract: Cardiovascular Activity and Myocyte Protection against Oxidative Damage 
This work was aimed at evaluating the cardioprotective effects of Castanea sativa Mill. (CSM) bark extract characterized in its phenolic composition by HPLC-DAD-MS analysis. The study was performed using primary cultures of neonatal rat cardiomyocytes to investigate the antioxidant and cytoprotective effects of CSM bark extract and isolated guinea pig left and right atria, left papillary muscle, and aorta to evaluate its direct effect on cholinergic and adrenergic response. In cultured cardiomyocytes the CSM bark extract reduced intracellular reactive oxygen species formation and improved cell viability following oxidative stress in dose-dependent manner. Moreover, the extract decreased the contraction induced by noradrenaline (1 μM) in guinea pig aortic strips and induced transient negative chronotropic and positive inotropic effects without involvement of cholinergic or adrenergic receptors in the guinea pig atria. Our results indicate that CSM bark extract exhibits antioxidant activity and might induce cardioprotective effect.
PMCID: PMC3600200  PMID: 23533692
10.  Phytochemical Profile and Nutraceutical Value of Old and Modern Common Wheat Cultivars 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45997.
Among health-promoting phytochemicals in whole grains, phenolic compounds have gained attention as they have strong antioxidant properties and can protect against many degenerative diseases. Aim of this study was to profile grain phenolic extracts of one modern and five old common wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) varieties and to evaluate their potential antiproliferative or cytoprotective effect in different cell culture systems.
Wheat extracts were characterized in terms of antioxidant activity and phenolic composition (HPLC/ESI-TOF-MS profile, polyphenol and flavonoid contents). Results showed that antioxidant activity (FRAP and DPPH) is mostly influenced by flavonoid (both bound and free) content and by the ratio flavonoids/polyphenols. Using a leukemic cell line, HL60, and primary cultures of neonatal rat cardiomyocytes, the potential antiproliferative or cytoprotective effects of different wheat genotypes were evaluated in terms of intracellular reactive oxygen species levels and cell viability. All tested wheat phenolic extracts exerted dose-dependent cytoprotective and antiproliferative effects on cardiomyocytes and HL60 cells, respectively. Due to the peculiar phenolic pattern of each wheat variety, a significant genotype effect was highlighted. On the whole, the most relevant scavenging effect was found for the old variety Verna. No significant differences in terms of anti-proliferative activities among wheat genotypes was observed.
Results reported in this study evidenced a correspondence between the in vitro antioxidant activity and potential healthy properties of different extracts. This suggests that an increased intake of wheat grain derived products could represent an effective strategy to achieve both chemoprevention and protection against oxidative stress related diseases.
PMCID: PMC3458827  PMID: 23049918
11.  Effect of Plasma Membrane Cholesterol Depletion on Glucose Transport Regulation in Leukemia Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41246.
GLUT1 is the predominant glucose transporter in leukemia cells, and the modulation of glucose transport activity by cytokines, oncogenes or metabolic stresses is essential for their survival and proliferation. However, the molecular mechanisms allowing to control GLUT1 trafficking and degradation are still under debate. In this study we investigated whether plasma membrane cholesterol depletion plays a role in glucose transport activity in M07e cells, a human megakaryocytic leukemia line. To this purpose, the effect of cholesterol depletion by methyl-β-cyclodextrin (MBCD) on both GLUT1 activity and trafficking was compared to that of the cytokine Stem Cell Factor (SCF). Results show that, like SCF, MBCD led to an increased glucose transport rate and caused a subcellular redistribution of GLUT1, recruiting intracellular transporter molecules to the plasma membrane. Due to the role of caveolae/lipid rafts in GLUT1 stimulation in response to many stimuli, we have also investigated the GLUT1 distribution along the fractions obtained after non ionic detergent treatment and density gradient centrifugation, which was only slightly changed upon MBCD treatment. The data suggest that MBCD exerts its action via a cholesterol-dependent mechanism that ultimately results in augmented GLUT1 translocation. Moreover, cholesterol depletion triggers GLUT1 translocation without the involvement of c-kit signalling pathway, in fact MBCD effect does not involve Akt and PLCγ phosphorylation. These data, together with the observation that the combined MBCD/SCF cell treatment caused an additive effect on glucose uptake, suggest that the action of SCF and MBCD may proceed through two distinct mechanisms, the former following a signalling pathway, and the latter possibly involving a novel cholesterol dependent mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3408441  PMID: 22859971
12.  Dietary Phenolic Acids Act as Effective Antioxidants in Membrane Models and in Cultured Cells, Exhibiting Proapoptotic Effects in Leukaemia Cells 
Caffeic, syringic, and protocatechuic acids are phenolic acids derived directly from food intake or come from the gut metabolism of polyphenols. In this study, the antioxidant activity of these compounds was at first evaluated in membrane models, where caffeic acid behaved as a very effective chain-breaking antioxidant, whereas syringic and protocatechuic acids were only retardants of lipid peroxidation. However, all three compounds acted as good scavengers of reactive species in cultured cells subjected to exogenous oxidative stress produced by low level of H2O2. Many tumour cells are characterised by increased ROS levels compared with their noncancerous counterparts. Therefore, we investigated whether phenolic acids, at low concentrations, comparable to those present in human plasma, were able to decrease basal reactive species. Results show that phenolic acids reduced ROS in a leukaemia cell line (HEL), whereas no effect was observed in normal cells, such as HUVEC. The compounds exhibited no toxicity to normal cells while they decreased proliferation in leukaemia cells, inducing apoptosis. In the debate on optimal ROS-manipulating strategies in cancer therapy, our work in leukaemia cells supports the antioxidant ROS-depleting approach.
PMCID: PMC3390142  PMID: 22792417
13.  Quercetin Reduces Inflammatory Responses in LPS-Stimulated Cardiomyoblasts 
Flavonoids possess several biological and pharmacological activities. Quercetin (Q), a naturally occurring flavonoid, has been shown to downregulate inflammatory responses and provide cardioprotection. However, the mechanisms behind the anti-inflammatory properties of Q in cardiac cells are poorly understood. In inflammation, nitric oxide (NO) acts as a proinflammatory mediator and is synthesized by inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in response to pro-inflammatory agents such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a causative agent in myocardial depression during sepsis. In the present study, we evaluated the protective effect of Q on rat cardiac dysfunction during sepsis induced by LPS. Pretreatment of H9c2 cardiomyoblasts with Q inhibited LPS-induced iNOS expression and NO production and counteracted oxidative stress caused by the unregulated NO production that leads to the generation of peroxynitrite and other reactive nitrogen species. In addition, Q pretreatment significantly counteracted apoptosis cell death as measured by immunoblotting of the cleaved caspase 3 and caspase 3 activity. Q also inhibited the LPS-induced phosphorylation of the stress-activated protein kinases (JNK/SAPK) and p38 MAP kinase that are involved in the inhibition of cell growth as well as the induction of apoptosis. In conclusion, these results suggest that Q might serve as a valuable protective agent in cardiovascular inflammatory diseases.
PMCID: PMC3364695  PMID: 22685622
14.  53BP1 contributes to a robust genomic stability in human fibroblasts 
Aging (Albany NY)  2011;3(9):836-845.
Faithful repair of damaged DNA is a crucial process in maintaining cell viability and function. A multitude of factors and pathways guides this process and includes repair proteins and cell cycle checkpoint factors. Differences in the maintenance of genomic processes are one feature that may contribute to species-specific differences in lifespan. We predicted that 53BP1, a key transducer of the DNA damage response and cell cycle checkpoint control, is highly involved in maintaining genomic stability and may function differently in cells from different species. We demonstrate a difference in the levels and recruitment of 53BP1 in mouse and human cells following DNA damage. In addition, we show that unresolved DNA damage persists more in mouse cells than in human cells, as evidenced by increased numbers of micronuclei. The difference in micronuclei seems to be related to the levels of 53BP1 present in cells. Finally, we present evidence that unresolved DNA damage correlates with species lifespan. Taken together, these studies suggest a link between recruitment of 53BP1, resolution of DNA damage, and increased species lifespan.
PMCID: PMC3227449  PMID: 21931182
53BP1; micronuclei; fibroblasts; mouse; human; stability; genome
15.  Long-Term IGF-I Exposure Decreases Autophagy and Cell Viability 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e12592.
A reduction in IGF-I signaling has been found to increase lifespan in multiple organisms despite the fact that IGF-I is a trophic factor for many cell types and has been found to have protective effects against multiple forms of damage in acute settings. The increase in longevity seen in response to reduced IGF-I signaling suggests that there may be differences between the acute and chronic impact of IGF-I signaling. We have examined the possibility that long-term stimulation with IGF-I may have a negative impact at the cellular level using quiescent human fibroblasts. We find that fibroblast cells exposed to IGF-I for 14 days have reduced long-term viability as judged by colony forming assays, which is accompanied by an accumulation of senescent cells. In addition we observe an accumulation of cells with depolarized mitochondria and a reduction in autophagy in the long-term IGF-I treated cultures. An examination of mice with reduced IGF-I levels reveals evidence of enhanced autophagy and fibroblast cells derived from these mice have a larger mitochondrial mass relative to controls indicating that changes in mitochondrial turnover occurs in animals with reduced IGF-I. The results indicate that chronic IGF-I stimulation leads to mitochondrial dysfunction and reduced cell viability.
PMCID: PMC2935370  PMID: 20830296

Results 1-15 (15)