Phenolic acids are antioxidant phenolic compounds, widespread in plant foods, which contribute significant biological and pharmacological properties; some have demonstrated a remarkable ability to alter sulfate conjugation. However, the modulation mechanisms of antioxidant phenolic acids on phenolsulfotransferase activity have not yet been described. In the present study, the human hepatoma cell line, HepG2, was used as a model to investigate the effect of antioxidant phenolic acids on enzymatic activity and expression of one of the major phase II sulfate conjugation enzymes, P-form phenolsulfotransferase (PST-P). The results showed that gallic acid, gentisic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, and p-coumaric acid increased PST-P activity, in a dose-dependent manner. A maximum of 4-and 5-fold induction of PST-P activity was observed for both gallic acid and gentisic acid; however, they showed an adverse effect on cell growth at higher concentrations. A 2- or 2.5-fold increase of PST-P activity was found with either p-coumaric or p-hydroxybenzoic acid treatment, whereas no significant effect was found for ferulic acid treatment. PST-P induction, by gallic acid, was further confirmed, using reverse transcription PCR and Western blotting techniques to measure mRNA expression and protein translation. A significant correlation (r = 0.74, p < 0.01) between the expressions of PST-P mRNA and the corresponding PST-P activity was observed. Thus, gallic acid increased PST-P protein expression in HepG2 cells, in a dose- and time-dependent manner. The results demonstrated that certain antioxidant phenolic acids could induce PST-P activity in HepG2 cells, by promoting PST-P mRNA and protein expression, suggesting a novel mechanism by which phenolic acids may be implicated in phase II sulfate conjugation.
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