Blood-Brain Barrier Permeability of Green Tea Catechin Metabolites and their Neuritogenic Activity in Human Neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y Cells

Mol Nutr Food Res. 2017 Dec;61(12). doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201700294. Epub 2017 Nov 3.


Scope: To understand the mechanism by which green tea lowers the risk of dementia, focus was placed on the metabolites of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the most abundant catechin in green tea. Much of orally ingested EGCG is hydrolyzed to epigallocatechin (EGC) and gallic acid. In rats, EGC is then metabolized mainly to 5-(3',5'-dihydroxyphenyl)-γ-valerolactone (EGC-M5) and its conjugated forms, which are distributed to various tissues. Therefore, we examined the permeability of these metabolites into the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and nerve cell proliferation/differentiation in vitro.

Methods and results: The permeability of EGC-M5, glucuronide, and the sulfate of EGC-M5, pyrogallol, as well as its glucuronide into the BBB were examined using a BBB model kit. Each brain- and blood-side sample was subjected to liquid chromatography tandem-mass spectrometry analysis. BBB permeability (%, in 0.5 h) was 1.9-3.7%. In human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells, neurite length was significantly prolonged by EGC-M5, and the number of neurites was increased significantly by all metabolites examined.

Conclusion: The permeability of EGC-M5 and its conjugated forms into the BBB suggests that they reached the brain parenchyma. In addition, the ability of EGC-M5 to affect nerve cell proliferation and neuritogenesis suggests that EGC-M5 may promote neurogenesis in the brain.

Keywords: 5-(3′,5′-dihydroxyphenyl)-γ-valerolactone; EGCG; blood-brain barrier; green tea catechin; nerve cell proliferation/differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood-Brain Barrier / drug effects*
  • Catechin / analogs & derivatives
  • Catechin / metabolism*
  • Catechin / pharmacokinetics
  • Catechin / pharmacology
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Lactones / pharmacokinetics*
  • Neurites / drug effects*
  • Neuroblastoma / drug therapy
  • Neuroblastoma / metabolism
  • Pyrogallol / pharmacokinetics
  • Tea / chemistry*


  • (-)-5-(3',4',5'-dihydroxyphenyl)-valerolactone
  • Lactones
  • Tea
  • Pyrogallol
  • Catechin
  • epigallocatechin gallate