Angiogenesis drives evolution and destabilisation of atherosclerotic plaques and the growth and expansion of tumour cells. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is the main endogenous pro-angiogenic factor in humans. The aim was to provide insight into the anti-VEGF activity of bioactive compounds derived from aromatic amino acids (serotonin, melatonin, 3-indoleacetic acid, 5-hydroxytryptophol and hydroxytyrosol). Experiments involved endothelial cell migration (wound-healing assay), the molecular mechanisms (ELISA assay) and the downstream effects (phospholipase C gamma 1 (PLCγ1), protein kinase B (Akt) and endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) by Western blot) on human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). The data suggest for the first time that hydroxytyrosol interacts with surface components of the endothelial cell membrane (, preventing VEGF from activating its receptor. Serotonin and 5-hydroxytryptophol significantly inhibited HUVEC migration (98% and 50%, respectively) following the same mechanism. Conversely to other bioactive compounds, the anti-angiogenic effect of melatonin, serotonin, 3-indoleacetic acid and 5-hydroxytryptophol is not mediated via PLCγ1. However, hydroxytyrosol inhibits PLCγ1 phosphorylation. Additionally, melatonin and serotonin maintained eNOS phosphorylation and hydroxytyrosol significantly activated eNOS—all via Akt. These data provide new evidence supporting the interest in melatonin, serotonin, 3-indoleacetic acid, 5-hydroxytryptophol and hydroxytyrosol for their further exploitation as anti-VEGF ingredients in food.
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