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18.06.2016 | Original Contribution | Ausgabe 5/2017

European Journal of Nutrition 5/2017

Autophagic effects of Hibiscus sabdariffa leaf polyphenols and epicatechin gallate (ECG) against oxidized LDL-induced injury of human endothelial cells

European Journal of Nutrition > Ausgabe 5/2017
Jing-Hsien Chen, Ming-Shih Lee, Chi-Ping Wang, Cheng-Chin Hsu, Hui-Hsuan Lin
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s00394-016-1239-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Oxidized low-density lipoprotein (ox-LDL) contributes to the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis by promoting vascular endothelial cell injury. Hibiscus sabdariffa leaf polyphenols (HLP), rich in flavonoids, have been shown to possess antioxidant and antiatherosclerotic activities. In this study, we examined the protective role of HLP and its main compound (−)-epicatechin gallate (ECG) in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) exposed to ox-LDL in vitro.


In a model of ox-LDL-impaired HUVECs, assessments of cell viability, cytotoxicity, cell proliferation, apoptosis, and autophagy were detected. To highlight the mechanisms of the antiapoptotic effects of HLP and ECG, the expressions of molecular proteins were measured by Western blotting, real-time PCR, and so on.


HLP or ECG improved the survival of HUVECs from ox-LDL-induced viability loss. In addition, HLP or ECG showed potential in reducing ox-LDL-dependent apoptosis. Next, the ox-LDL-induced formation of acidic vesicular organelles and upregulation of the autophagy-related genes were increased by HLP or ECG. The HLP-triggered autophagic flux was further confirmed by increasing the LC3-II level under the pretreatment of an autophagy inhibitor chloroquine. Molecular data indicated the autophagic effect of HLP or ECG might be mediated via class III PI3K/Beclin-1 and PTEN/class I PI3K/Akt cascade signaling, as demonstrated by the usage of a class III PI3K inhibitor 3-methyladenine (3-MA) and a PTEN inhibitor SF1670.


Our data imply that ECG-enriched HLP upregulates the autophagic pathway, which in turn led to reduce ox-LDL-induced HUVECs injury and apoptosis and provide a new mechanism for its antiatherosclerotic activity.

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