Biological activity of ellagitannins: Effects as anti-oxidants, pro-oxidants and metal chelators

Phytochemistry. 2016 May;125:65-72. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2016.02.008. Epub 2016 Feb 18.


Ellagitannins are a subclass of hydrolysable tannins that have been suggested to function as defensive compounds of plants against herbivores. However, it is known that the conditions in the digestive tracts of different herbivores are variable, so it seems reasonable to anticipate that the reactivities and modes of actions of these ingested defensive compounds would also be different. A previous study on a few ellagitannins has shown that these polyphenolic compounds are highly oxidizable at high pH and that their bioactivity can be attributed to certain structural features. Herein, the activities of 13 ellagitannins using the deoxyribose assay were measured. The results provided information about the anti-oxidant, pro-oxidant and metal chelating properties of ellagitannins. Surprisingly, many of the tested ellagitannins exhibited pro-oxidant activities even at neutral pH and only moderate to low radical scavenging activities, although the metal chelating capacities of all tested ellagitannins were relatively high.

Keywords: Anti-oxidation; Deoxyribose assay; Hydrolysable tannins; Metal ion chelation; Pro-oxidation; Radical scavenging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Hydrolyzable Tannins / chemistry
  • Hydrolyzable Tannins / metabolism*
  • Oxidants / chemistry
  • Oxidants / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / chemistry


  • Antioxidants
  • Hydrolyzable Tannins
  • Oxidants
  • Reactive Oxygen Species