Intracellular flavonoids as electron donors for extracellular ferricyanide reduction in human erythrocytes

Free Radic Biol Med. 2002 Jan 1;32(1):64-72. doi: 10.1016/s0891-5849(01)00762-6.


Reduction of extracellular ferricyanide [Fe(CN)(6)](-3) to ferrocyanide by intact cells reflects the activity of a trans-plasma membrane oxidoreductase that, in human red blood cells, utilizes ascorbic acid as an electron donor. We herein report that the flavonoids quercetin and myricetin, while inhibiting dehydroascorbic acid uptake-and thus the erythrocyte ascorbic acid content-effectively stimulate the extracellular reduction of ferricyanide. Other flavonoids such as rutin, acacetin, apigenin, and genistein do not show the same effect. The notion that quercetin or myricetin may serve as an intracellular donor for a trans-plasma membrane oxidoreductase is supported by the following lines of evidence: (i) they afford direct reduction of ferricyanide; (ii) extracellular reduction of ferricyanide was not mediated by direct effects of the flavonoids released by the cells and was abolished by the sulphydryl reagent parachloromercuribenzenesulfonic acid (pCMBS); (iii) the intracellular concentrations of quercetin or myricetin well correlate with increases in ferricyanide reduction; (iv) the intracellular concentration of the flavonoids dramatically declines after ferricyanide exposure. Taken together, the results presented in this study demonstrate that myricetin and quercetin, which accumulate in large amounts in red blood cells, act as intracellular substrates of a pCMBS-sensitive trans-plasma membrane oxidoreductase. This may represent a novel mechanism whereby these flavonoids exert beneficial effects under oxidative stress conditions.

MeSH terms

  • 4-Chloromercuribenzenesulfonate / pharmacology
  • Ascorbic Acid / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Dehydroascorbic Acid / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Dehydroascorbic Acid / pharmacokinetics
  • Electron Transport / physiology
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / enzymology
  • Erythrocytes / drug effects
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism*
  • Ferricyanides / metabolism*
  • Flavonoids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction / drug effects
  • Quercetin / metabolism*


  • Ferricyanides
  • Flavonoids
  • 4-Chloromercuribenzenesulfonate
  • myricetin
  • Quercetin
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases
  • ferricyanide reductase
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Dehydroascorbic Acid