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Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 839298, 12 pages
Research Article

Dietary Phenolic Acids Act as Effective Antioxidants in Membrane Models and in Cultured Cells, Exhibiting Proapoptotic Effects in Leukaemia Cells

1Department of Biochemistry “G. Moruzzi”, Alma Mater Studiorum, University of Bologna, Via Irnerio 48, 40126 Bologna, Italy
2University of Ferrara and Cardiovascular Research Center, Salvatore Maugeri Foundation, IRCCS, Via G. Mazzini 129, 25065 Lumezzane, Italy

Received 9 March 2012; Accepted 3 May 2012

Academic Editor: Cristina Angeloni

Copyright © 2012 Laura Zambonin et al. 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.


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.