Effect of Theobroma cacao flavonoids on immune activation of a lymphoid cell line

Br J Nutr. 2005 Jun;93(6):859-66. doi: 10.1079/bjn20051443.


We analysed the effect of (-)-epicatechin and cocoa extract on the activation of a lymphoid cell line. Particularly the expression of IL-2 receptor alpha (IL-2Ralpha or CD25) and, the secretion of IL-2 and IL-4 were established after flavonoid treatment. Two media culture conditions (1 and 10 % of fetal calf serum supplementation) and the different moments of flavonoid addition (simultaneously or 2 h before cell-activation) were compared. IL-2Ralpha (CD25) expression on activated cells was significantly reduced by epicatechin and cocoa extract in a dose-dependent manner, achieving the highest inhibition of about 50 % when flavonoids were added 2 h before stimulation. IL-2 secretion was also inhibited by the presence of both epicatechin and cocoa extract, displaying 60 and 75 % of inhibition, respectively. Cocoa flavonoids were also able to enhance 3-4.5-fold IL-4 release. In summary, cocoa extract down-modulated T lymphocyte activation and therefore the acquired immune response. This fact could be important in some states of the immune system hyperactivity such as autoimmune or chronic inflammatory diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cacao / chemistry
  • Cacao / immunology*
  • Carcinogens / pharmacology
  • Catechin / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor / immunology
  • Cell Survival
  • Flavonoids / immunology*
  • Interleukin-2 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-4 / metabolism
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate / pharmacology


  • Carcinogens
  • Flavonoids
  • Interleukin-2
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2
  • Interleukin-4
  • Catechin
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate