In vitro and in vivo conjugation of dietary hydroxycinnamic acids by UDP-glucuronosyltransferases and sulfotransferases in humans

Chi Chun Wong, Walter Meinl, Hans Rudolf Glatt, Denis Barron, Angélique Stalmach, Heike Steiling, Alan Crozier, Gary Williamson

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Hydroxycinnamic acids are a class of phenolic antioxidants found widely in dietary plants. Their biotransformation in the human organism primarily involves Phase II conjugation reactions. In this study, activities of UDP-glucuronosyltransferases (UGTs) and sulfotransferases (SULTs) towards major dietary hydroxycinnamic acids (caffeic, dihydrocaffeic, dihydroferulic, ferulic and isoferulic acids) were investigated. Conjugate formation was evaluated using human liver and intestinal S9 homogenates, and in vitro characterization was carried out using recombinant human UGTs and SULTs. Analysis of the kinetics of hydroxycinnamic acid conjugation in human S9 homogenates revealed that intrinsic clearance (Vmax/Km) is much greater for sulfation than for glucuronidation. Assessment of activity using a panel of recombinant human SULTs showed that SULT1A1 is most active in the sulfation of caffeic, dihydrocaffeic and isoferulic acids, while SULT1E1 is most active in the sulfation of ferulic and dihydroferulic acids. Only isoferulic acid was significantly glucuronidated by human liver S9 homogenates, explained by the high activity of liver-specific UGT1A9. Studies on the kinetics of active SULTs and UGTs demonstrated a markedly lower Km for SULTs. To further corroborate our findings, we carried out an intervention study in healthy humans to determine the hydroxycinnamic acid conjugates in urine after consumption of hydroxycinnamate-rich coffee (200 ml). Analysis showed that sulfates are the main conjugates in urine, with the exception of isoferulic acid, which is mainly glucuronidated. These data suggest that sulfates are the predominant hydroxycinnamic acid conjugates in humans, and that SULT mediated sulfation is a major factor determining the bioavailability of hydroxycinnamic acids in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1060-1068
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Nutritional Biochemistry
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Coffee
  • Conjugation
  • Hydroxycinnamic acid
  • Phase II metabolism
  • Sulfotransferase
  • UDP-glucuronosyltransferase

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