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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 12 (2005), Issue 1, Pages 19-25

Flavonoid-membrane Interactions: A Protective Role of Flavonoids at the Membrane Surface?

1Department of Biological Chemistry, IQUIFIB (UBA-CONICET), School of Pharmacy and Biochemistry, University of Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina
2Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, CA, USA
3Department of Environmental Toxicology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA
4Physical Chemistry-PRALIB, School of Pharmacy and Biochemistry, University of Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Copyright © 2005 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Flavonoids can exert beneficial health effects through multiple mechanisms. In this paper, we address the important, although not fully understood, capacity of flavonoids to interact with cell membranes. The interactions of polyphenols with bilayers include: (a) the partition of the more non-polar compounds in the hydrophobic interior of the membrane, and (b) the formation of hydrogen bonds between the polar head groups of lipids and the more hydrophilic flavonoids at the membrane interface. The consequences of these interactions are discussed. The induction of changes in membrane physical properties can affect the rates of membrane lipid and protein oxidation. The partition of certain flavonoids in the hydrophobic core can result in a chain breaking antioxidant activity. We suggest that interactions of polyphenols at the surface of bilayers through hydrogen bonding, can act to reduce the access of deleterious molecules (i.e. oxidants), thus protecting the structure and function of membranes.