Proteolytic activity and immunogenicity of oral bromelain within the gastrointestinal tract of mice

Int Immunopharmacol. 2004 Feb;4(2):255-64. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2003.12.010.


Bromelain is a mixture of proteinases derived from pineapple stem that is marketed by health food stores as a "digestive aid". A number of studies suggest that bromelain may also have anti-inflammatory activity in vivo, including an anecdotal report describing potential efficacy in inflammatory bowel disease. We and others have previously shown that proteolytically active bromelain removes certain cell surface molecules and affects leukocyte migration, activation, and production of cytokines and inflammatory mediators in vitro. The purpose of this study was to determine whether ingested bromelain retains proteolytic activity within the murine gastrointestinal tract in vivo. The proteolytic activity of bromelain was determined in vitro using model substrates or immunofluorescence assays after administration of various doses and formulations orally to mice. Immune responses against bromelain were detected by enzyme immunoassays. When formulated in antacid, oral bromelain retained substantial proteolytic activity throughout the gastrointestinal tract. Bromelain concentrations within the colon were dependent on both dose and formulation and were sufficient to remove bromelain-sensitive molecules from both leukocytes and colon epithelial cells. Peak activity in the stool was observed 4 h after oral dosing. Although anti-bromelain IgG was detected in both serum and stool after long-term oral therapy, these antibodies did not prevent bromelain proteolytic activity within the gastrointestinal tract. These studies demonstrate that bromelain enzymes can remain intact and proteolytically active within the murine gastrointestinal tract. They provide further support for the hypothesis that oral bromelain may potentially modify inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract via local proteolytic activity within the colonic microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Ananas / enzymology
  • Animals
  • Antacids / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antibodies / analysis
  • Antibodies / blood
  • Antibodies / immunology
  • Bromelains / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Bromelains / pharmacokinetics
  • Bromelains / pharmacology*
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Feces / enzymology
  • Female
  • Food, Organic*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / immunology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Transit
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / drug effects*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Plant Stems / enzymology


  • Antacids
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antibodies
  • Hyaluronan Receptors
  • Bromelains