Quercetin downregulates NADPH oxidase, increases eNOS activity and prevents endothelial dysfunction in spontaneously hypertensive rats

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Background and objective

Several studies have found that chronic treatment with the dietary flavonoid quercetin lowers blood pressure and restores endothelial dysfunction in hypertensive animal models. We hypothesized that increased endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) and/or decreased nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase protein expression and activity, and reduced reactive oxygen species might be involved in the improvement of endothelial function induced by quercetin in sponataneously hypertensive rats (SHR).

Design and methods

Male SHR and Wistar–Kyoto (WKY) rats (5 weeks old) were treated with quercetin (10 mg/kg) or vehicle for 13 weeks. Changes in vascular expression of eNOS, caveolin-1 and p47phox were analysed by Western blot, eNOS activity by conversion of [3H]arginine to L-[3H]citrulline, and NADPH oxidase activity by NADPH-enhanced chemoluminescence of lucigenin.


In SHR, quercetin reduced the increase in blood pressure and heart rate and enhanced the endothelium-dependent aortic vasodilation induced by acetylcholine, but had no effect on the endothelium-independent response induced by nitroprusside. However, quercetin had no effect on endothelium-dependent vasoconstriction and aortic thromboxane B2 production. Compared to WKY, SHR showed upregulated eNOS and p47phox protein expression, downregulated caveolin-1 expression, increased NADPH-induced superoxide production but, paradoxically, eNOS activity was reduced. Chronic quercetin treatment prevented all these changes in SHR. In WKY, quercetin had no effect on blood pressure, endothelial function or the expression or activity of the proteins analysed.


Enhanced eNOS activity and decreased NADPH oxidase-mediated superoxide anion (O2−) generation associated with reduced p47phox expression appear to be essential mechanisms for the improvement of endothelial function and the antihypertensive effects of chronic quercetin.

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