Cellular Mechanisms of Resveratrol's Interaction with Mitochondrial Reactive Oxygen Species Metabolism
Resveratrol, a polyphenol found naturally in red wines, has attracted great interest in both the scientific community and the general public for its reported ability to protect against many of the diseases facing Western society today. While the purported health effects of resveratrol are well characterized, details of the cellular mechanisms that give rise to these observations are unclear. Here, the mitochondrial antioxidant enzyme Mn superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) was identified as a proximal target of resveratrol in vitro and in vivo. MnSOD protein and activity levels increase significantly in cultured cells treated with resveratrol, and in the brain tissue of mice given resveratrol in a high fat diet. Preventing the increase in MnSOD levels eliminates two of resveratrol’s more interesting effects in the context of human health: inhibition of proliferative cell growth and cytoprotection. Thus, the induction of MnSOD is a critical step in the molecular mechanism of resveratrol. Mitochondrial morphology is a malleable property that is capable of impeding cell cycle progression and conferring resistance against stress induced cell death. Using confocal microscopy and a novel ‘cell free’ fusion assay it was determined that concurrent with changes in MnSOD protein levels, resveratrol treatment leads to a more fused mitochondrial reticulum. This observation may be important to resveratrol’s ability to slow proliferative cell growth and confer cytoprotection. Resveratrol's biological activities, including the ability to increase MnSOD levels, are strikingly similar to what is observed with estrogen treatment. Resveratrol fails to increase MnSOD levels, slow proliferative cell growth and confer cytoprotection in the presence of an estrogen receptor antagonist. Resveratrol's effects can be replicated with the specific estrogen receptor beta agonist diarylpropionitrile, and are absent in myoblasts lacking estrogen receptor beta. Four compounds that are structurally similar to resveratrol and seven phytoestrogens predicted to bind to estrogen receptor beta were screened for their effects on MnSOD, proliferative growth rates and stress resistance in cultured mammalian cells. Several of these compounds were able to mimic the effects of resveratrol on MnSOD levels, proliferative cell growth and stress resistance in vitro. Thus, I hypothesize that resveratrol interacts with estrogen receptor beta to induce the upregulation of MnSOD, which in turn affects cell cycle progression and stress resistance. These results have important implications for the understanding of RES’s biological activities and potential applications to human health.