Transport of quercetin and its glucosides across human intestinal epithelial Caco-2 cells

Biochem Pharmacol. 1998 May 15;55(10):1721-7. doi: 10.1016/s0006-2952(98)00048-3.


There is mounting evidence from human epidemiological, animal in vivo, and in vitro studies to suggest beneficial effects related to the consumption of quercetin and its glucosides. However, there is limited knowledge on the oral bioavailability of these natural products. This study examined the intestinal epithelial membrane transport of quercetin, quercetin 4'-glucoside, and quercetin 3,4'-diglucoside, using the Caco-2 human colonic cell line, a model of human intestinal absorption. The apparent permeability (Papp) of each agent was measured in both apical to basal and basal to apical directions. The apical to basolateral flux of quercetin, Papp 5.8 +/- 1.1 x 10(-6) cm x sec(-1) (mean +/- SEM), was more than 10-fold higher than for the paracellular transport marker mannitol, 0.48 +/- 0.09 x 10(-6) cm x sec(-1) (P < 0.01). Under identical conditions, the Papp for the transcellular marker propranolol was about 5-fold higher than for quercetin (P < 0.001). Interestingly, the reverse, basolateral to apical, flux of quercetin (Papp 11.1 +/- 1.2 x 10(-6) cm x sec(-1)) was almost 2-fold higher than the apical to basolateral flux (P < 0.001). In similar experiments, quercetin 4'-glucoside demonstrated no absorption, Papp < 0.02 x 10(-6) cm x sec(-1) in the apical to basal direction, but did demonstrate basal to apical flux, Papp 1.6 +/- 0.2 x 10(-6) cm x sec(-1). Quercetin 3,4'-diglucoside showed a low apical to basolateral transport (Papp 0.09 +/- 0.03 x 10(-6) cm x sec(-1)); its reverse, basolateral to apical, transport was, however, 4-fold higher (P < 0.05). In these cells, glucose was actively transported with an apical to basolateral Papp of 36.8 +/- 1.1 x 10(-6) cm x sec(-1). These observations suggest facile absorption of quercetin through the human intestinal epithelium, but contrary to a previous proposal, they do not support an active transport process for quercetin glucosides.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Cell Membrane Permeability
  • Glucosides / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Quercetin / metabolism*


  • Glucosides
  • Quercetin