Iron and copper chelation by flavonoids: an electrospray mass spectrometry study

J Inorg Biochem. 2002 Nov 11;92(2):105-11. doi: 10.1016/s0162-0134(02)00511-1.


Flavonoids are well known as effective free radical scavengers exhibiting therefore an antioxidant behaviour. Another antioxidant mechanism however may result from the ability they have to chelate metal ions, rendering them inactive to participate in free radical generating reactions. Electrospray mass spectrometry has been used to study metal ion interactions with a set of flavonoids from different classes. Complexes with a range of stoichiometries, of metal: flavonoid, 1:1, 1:2, 2:2, 2:3 have been observed. The stoichiometry 1:2 is in general the preferred one. It is established for flavones and for the flavanone naringenin that the binding metal sites are preferentially at the 5-hydroxyl and 4-oxo groups. Redox reactions are also observed through the change of the oxidation state of the metal, jointly with the oxidation of the flavonoid by loss of hydrogen. Structures of the oxidized species of some flavonoids are proposed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Chelating Agents / chemistry*
  • Chelating Agents / pharmacology*
  • Copper / chemistry*
  • Flavonoids / chemistry*
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology*
  • Iron Chelating Agents / chemistry*
  • Iron Chelating Agents / pharmacology*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization


  • Antioxidants
  • Chelating Agents
  • Flavonoids
  • Iron Chelating Agents
  • Copper