Background: Plant phenolics are important nutritional antioxidants which could aid in overcoming chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, two leading causes of death in the world. The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is a rich source of water-soluble phenolics which have high antioxidant activities. This study aimed to identify the in vivo effects and molecular mechanisms involved in the biological activities of oil palm phenolics (OPP) during healthy states via microarray gene expression profiling, using mice supplemented with a normal diet as biological models.
Results: Having confirmed via histology, haematology and clinical biochemistry analyses that OPP is not toxic to mice, we further explored the gene expression changes caused by OPP through statistical and functional analyses using Illumina microarrays. OPP showed numerous biological activities in three major organs of mice, the liver, spleen and heart. In livers of mice given OPP, four lipid catabolism genes were up-regulated while five cholesterol biosynthesis genes were down-regulated, suggesting that OPP may play a role in reducing cardiovascular disease. OPP also up-regulated eighteen blood coagulation genes in spleens of mice. OPP elicited gene expression changes similar to the effects of caloric restriction in the hearts of mice supplemented with OPP. Microarray gene expression fold changes for six target genes in the three major organs tested were validated with real-time quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR), and the correlation of fold changes obtained with these two techniques was high (R2 = 0.9653).
Conclusions: OPP showed non-toxicity and various pleiotropic effects in mice. This study implies the potential application of OPP as a valuable source of wellness nutraceuticals, and further suggests the molecular mechanisms as to how dietary phenolics work in vivo.