The impact of quercetin on wound healing relates to changes in αV and β1 integrin expression

Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2017 Aug;242(14):1424-1431. doi: 10.1177/1535370217712961. Epub 2017 May 26.


Overly fibrotic wound healing can lead to excess scar formation, causing functional impairment and undesirable cosmetic results. However, there are few successful treatments available to prevent or remediate scars. This study sought to explore the molecular mechanisms by which quercetin, a naturally-occurring antifibrotic agent, diminishes scar formation. Using both mice and fibroblast cells, we examined quercetin's impact on fibrosis and the wound healing rate, and potential molecular mechanisms underlying the quercetin-mediated reduction of fibrosis. While cultured fibroblasts demonstrated normal growth in response to quercetin, quercetin increased surface αV integrin and decreased β1 integrin. These changes in surface integrin expression may impact factors that contribute to fibrosis including cell migration, proliferation, and extracellular matrix production. In both quercetin-treated and control mice, wounds healed in about 14 days. Masson's trichrome stain revealed diminished fibrosis at the wound site in quercetin-treated animals despite the normal healing rate, indicating the potential for better cosmetic results without delaying healing. An in vitro scratch wound model using cells plated on an artificial extracellular matrix demonstrated delayed closure following quercetin treatment. The extracellular matrix also ameliorated quercetin's effect on αV integrin. Thus, αV integrin recruitment in response to quercetin treatment may promote the quercetin-mediated decrease extracellular matrix because cells require less extracellular matrix to migrate into a wound. With added extracellular matrix, β1 integrin remained diminished in response to quercetin, indicating that quercetin's effect on β1 integrin expression is independent of extracellular matrix -mediated signaling and is likely driven by inhibition of the intracellular mechanisms driving β1 expression. These findings suggest that quercetin could alter the cells' interactions with the extracellular matrix through the regulation of integrin expression to promote a decrease in fibrosis. Furthermore, this work demonstrates that this naturally occurring and commercially available supplement could be used to improve wound healing by impacting integrin expression, leading to a lower extracellular matrix requirement to achieve healing. Impact statement Scar formation during wound healing can be problematic for patients but there are limited therapies available to treat or prevent excess fibrosis at wound sites. This work examines the impact of quercetin, a flavonoid that decreases fibrosis, on wound healing, and relates quercetin's effects to changes in integrin expression on the surface of fibroblast cells. To our knowledge, this is the first report that quercetin alters integrin expression or that this impact may be part of the mechanism by which quercetin prevents fibrosis. This work demonstrates that quercetin can be used to modulate integrin expression and that this effect may in turn reduce fibrosis during wound healing. Furthermore, this paper identifies the modulation of integrin expression as a possible therapeutic target in preventing scars. This information could be used to improve therapeutics to aid in the cosmetic and functional results following wound healing.

Keywords: Wound; fibroblast; fibrosis; integrin; quercetin; skin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / metabolism*
  • Cell Line
  • Integrins / biosynthesis*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Quercetin / metabolism*
  • Wound Healing / drug effects*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Integrins
  • Quercetin