Anthraquinone (9,10-anthraquinone) and several hydroxy derivatives, including purpurin (1,2,4-trihydroxyanthraquinone), anthrarufin (1,5-dihydroxyanthraquinone), and chrysazin (1,8-dihydroxyanthraquinone), were evaluated for antioxidative and anti-inflammatory activities in chemical assays and mammalian cells (murine macrophage RAW 264.7 cells). Several tests were used to assess their activities: 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) free radical; ABTS radical cation; hydrogen peroxide scavenging; reduction of potassium ferricyanide; chelation of ferrous ions; inhibition of lipid peroxidation; inhibition of nitric oxide generation; scavenging of the intracellular hydroxyl radical; expression of NLRP3 polypeptide for inflammasome assembly; and quantitation of proinflammatory cytokine interleukin 1β (IL-1β) for inflammasome activation. The results show that purpurin, from the root of the madder plant (Rubia tinctorum
L.), exhibited the highest antioxidative activity in both chemical and cultured cell antioxidant assays. The antioxidative activities of the other three anthraquinones were lower than that of purpurin. In addition, purpurin could down-regulate NLRP3 inflammasome assembly and activation, suggesting that it might protect foods against oxidative damage and prevent in vivo oxidative stress and inflammation. Structure-activity relationships and the significance of the results for food quality and human health are discussed.
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