Green tea is rich in polyphenol flavonoids including catechins. Epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG) is the most abundant and potent green tea catechin. EGCG has been extensively studied for its beneficial health effects as a nutriceutical agent. Based upon its chemical structure, EGCG is often classified as an antioxidant. However, treatment of cells with EGCG results in production of hydrogen peroxide and hydroxyl radicals in the presence of Fe (III). Thus, EGCG functions as a pro-oxidant in some cellular contexts. Recent investigations have revealed many other direct actions of EGCG that are independent from anti-oxidative mechanisms. In this review, we discuss these novel molecular mechanisms of action for EGCG. In particular, EGCG directly interacts with proteins and phospholipids in the plasma membrane and regulates signal transduction pathways, transcription factors, DNA methylation, mitochondrial function, and autophagy to exert many of its beneficial biological actions.
Keywords: Anti-oxidant; EC, epicatechin; ECG, epicatechin gallate; EGC, epigallocatechin; EGCG; EGCG, epigallocatechin 3-gallate; Polyphenol; Pro-oxidant.