Pentameric Procyanidins Isolated from Theobroma cacao Seeds Selectively Downregulate ErbB2 in Human Aortic Endothelial Cells

Thomas P. Kenny, Carl L. Keen, Paul Jones, Hsing Jien Kung, Harold H. Schmitz, M. Eric Gershwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Flavonoids isolated from cocoa have biological activities relevant to oxidant defenses, vascular health, tumor suppression, and immune function. The intake of certain dietary flavonoids, along with other dietary substances such as tocopherols, ascorbate, and carotenoids, is epidemiologically associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Flavonoids have also been shown to modulate tumor pathology in vitro and in animal models. We took advantage of the conserved sequences found in tyrosine kinases to study the influence of cocoa fractions and controls on gene expression. We report that the pentameric procyanidin (molecular weight of 1442 daltons) fraction isolated from cocoa was a potent inhibitor of tyrosine kinase ErbB2 expression, a receptor important in angiogenesis regulation. Consistent with this primary observation, the cocoa flavonoid fraction also suppressed human aortic endothelial cell (HAEC) growth and decreased expression of two tyrosine kinases responsive to ErbB2 modulation, namely VEGFR-2/KDR and MapK 11/p38p2. These inhibitory effects were observed when HAECs were treated with the flavonol fraction (molecular weight 280 daltons) isolated from cocoa, which comprise the structural subunits from which the procyanidin flavonoid subclass is biosynthetically constructed. Down-regulation of ErbB2 and inhibition of HAEC growth by cocoa procyanidins may have several downstream implications, including reduced vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) activity and angiogenic activity associated with tumor pathology. These results suggest specific dietary flavonoids are capable of selectively inhibiting ErbB2 and therefore may offer important insight into the design of therapeutic agents that target tumors overexpressing ErbB2.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-263
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Biology and Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • ErbB2
  • Flavonoids
  • Oxidative defense
  • Procyanidin
  • Vascular endothelial growth factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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