Effects of quercetin and metabolites on uric acid biosynthesis and consequences for gene expression in the endothelium

Sarka Tumova, Yuanlu Shi, Ian M. Carr, Gary Williamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Uric acid, a metabolic product of purine degradation in humans, is a risk factor for developing gout and type 2 diabetes, and supplementation with quercetin lowers plasma uric acid in mildly hyperuricemic men. Here we examined the mechanism of inhibition of enzymes involved in uric acid metabolism by quercetin, conjugates and microbial catabolites, and measured the effect of lowered circulating uric acid on endothelial cell gene expression. Methods: Inhibition of adenosine deaminase (ADA), purine nucleoside phosphorylase (PNP) and xanthine oxidoreductase (XOR) activity by quercetin and metabolites was determined by HPLC. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were cultured under conditions mimicking blood flow, treated with uric acid (0, 300 or 500 μmol/L), and changes in gene expression measured using transcriptomics and quantitative droplet digital PCR. Results: In human plasma, no inhibition of PNP activity was observed, and only quercetin weakly inhibited ADA. XOR was not present at sufficient amount in human plasma to use for testing, but quercetin, quercetin-3′-sulfate and the gut microbial metabolite 3′,4′-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid inhibited bovine milk XOR. Several changes were observed in gene expression in HUVECs under flow compared to static conditions, but after uric acid treatment, only very few changes were detected. Conclusions: We propose that the main mechanism by which quercetin, as quercetin-3′-sulfate, lowers uric acid in vivo is through inhibition of XOR, and not ADA nor PNP. The pertinent shift in uric acid concentration was not sufficient to produce significant changes in endothelial gene expression in a cell model.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 19 Oct 2020


  • Abstract
  • Endothelial cells
  • Purine
  • Quercetin
  • Uric acid

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