Regioselectivity of phase II metabolism of luteolin and quercetin by UDP-glucuronosyl transferases

Chem Res Toxicol. 2002 May;15(5):662-70. doi: 10.1021/tx0101705.


The regioselectivity of phase II conjugation of flavonoids is expected to be of importance for their biological activity. In the present study, the regioselectivity of phase II biotransformation of the model flavonoids luteolin and quercetin by UDP-glucuronosyltransferases was investigated. Identification of the metabolites formed in microsomal incubations with luteolin or quercetin was done using HPLC, LC-MS, and (1)H NMR. The results obtained demonstrate the major sites for glucuronidation to be the 7-, 3-, 3'-, or 4'-hydroxyl moiety. Using these unequivocal identifications, the regioselectivity of the glucuronidation of luteolin and quercetin by microsomal samples from different origin, i.e., rat and human intestine and liver, as well as by various individual human UDP-glucuronosyltransferase isoenzymes was characterized. The results obtained reveal that regioselectivity is dependent on the model flavonoid of interest, glucuronidation of luteolin and quercetin not following the same pattern, depending on the isoenzyme of UDP-glucuronosyltransferases (UGT) involved. Human UGT1A1, UGT1A8, and UGT1A9 were shown to be especially active in conjugation of both flavonoids, whereas UGT1A4 and UGT1A10 and the isoenzymes from the UGTB family, UGT2B7 and UGT2B15, were less efficient. Due to the different regioselectivity and activity displayed by the various UDP-glucuronosyltransferases, regioselectivity and rate of flavonoid conjugation varies with species and organ. Qualitative comparison of the regioselectivities of glucuronidation obtained with human intestine and liver microsomes to those obtained with human UGT isoenzymes indicates that, in human liver, especially UGT1A9 and, in intestine, UGT1A1 and UGT1A8 are involved in glucuronidation of quercetin and luteolin. Taking into account the fact that the anti-oxidant action as well as the pro-oxidant toxicity of these catechol-type flavonoids is especially related to their 3',4'-dihydroxyl moiety, it is of interest to note that the human intestine UGT's appear to be especially effective in conjugating this 3',4' catechol unit. This would imply that upon glucuronidation along the transport across the intestinal border, the flavonoids loose a significant part of these biological activities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Flavonoids / chemistry
  • Flavonoids / metabolism*
  • Glucuronosyltransferase / metabolism
  • Glucuronosyltransferase / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Intestines / enzymology
  • Luteolin
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Microsomes, Liver / enzymology
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism*
  • Quercetin / chemistry
  • Quercetin / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Flavonoids
  • Quercetin
  • Glucuronosyltransferase
  • Luteolin