Effect of black currant anthocyanins on the activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) in vitro in human endothelial cells

J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Aug 24;59(16):8616-24. doi: 10.1021/jf201116y. Epub 2011 Jul 28.


Polyphenols are known to induce vasodilatory function via activation of the redox-sensitive phosphatidylinositol-3 (PI3)/protein kinase B (Akt) pathway. Black currant fruits have appreciable amounts of polyphenolic compounds including cyanidin-3-O-glucoside, cyanidin-3-O-rutinoside, delphinidin-3-O-glucoside, and delphinidin-3-O-rutinoside. It was hypothesized that black currant fruit extracts would cause activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) through activation of redox-sensitive PI3 kinase/Akt signaling pathway. To test this hypothesis, human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were treated with different concentrations/times of black currant juice concentrates (Ben Gairn and Ben Hope) and the activation of Akt and eNOS was measured using immunoblotting. Vitamin C is also known to activate Akt and eNOS in in vitro models, and black currants are rich in vitamin C. Therefore, the effect of black currant extracts with and without coexisting vitamin C was investigated, using SPE columns to eliminate vitamin C content. The individual (and combined) effects of the major anthocyanins present in black currant juice samples with and without vitamin C were investigated and compared to the effects of the whole extract. Black currant juice samples (1 μL/mL) significantly increased the phosphorylation of Akt (p-Akt) and eNOS (p-eNOS) (P < 0.05). Activation of Akt and eNOS was abolished by incubation with wortmannin, a PI3K inhibitor, supporting the involvement of PI3K/Akt. Vitamin C alone significantly increased the p-Akt and p-eNOS (P < 0.05); however, removal of vitamin C from black currant did not significantly affect p-Akt and p-eNOS compared to black currant with vitamin C. Assessment of individual anthocyanins also showed significant effects on p-Akt and p-eNOS. In summary, in the present study data suggested that black currant concentrates, Ben Gairn and Ben Hope, activated eNOS via Akt/PI3 kinase pathway in vitro in HUVECs and that the effect was not dependent on vitamin C.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anthocyanins / pharmacology*
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Fruit / chemistry*
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / enzymology*
  • Humans
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Ribes / chemistry*


  • Anthocyanins
  • Plant Extracts
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Ascorbic Acid