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Evolution of regulation of steroid-mediated intercellular communication in vertebrates: insights from flavonoids, signals that mediate plant-rhizobia symbiosis


, : Evolution of regulation of steroid-mediated intercellular communication in vertebrates: insights from flavonoids, signals that mediate plant-rhizobia symbiosis. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 41(3-8): 301-308

Various flavonoids, such as genistein, luteolin, and coumestrol, have actions in mammals that are mediated by binding either to classical estrogen receptors or to type II receptors, which also bind estrogen. These actions are of intense interest because they may be the basis for the protective actions of plants against certain cancers, such as breast cancer. The biological activity of flavonoids in mammals raises some questions. Is the hormonal action of flavonoids "an accident" derived from their phenolic groups and general hydrophobicity, which gives them some properties in common with estrogens? Or do flavonoids regulate gene transcription in other organisms? And, if so, is there a connection between their actions in these organisms and in mammals? Some answers to these questions are provided by the actions of plant-derived flavonoids in regulating gene transcription in rhizobia, bacteria that form nitrogen-fixing nodules in the roots of legumes, which has several interesting similarities with steroid-mediated actions in vertebrates. First, there is specificity in the actions of flavonoids in rhizobia; oxidation or reduction of the flavonoid or removal of a hydroxyl group can alter its biological activity. Moreover, some flavonoids are anti-inducers functioning like steroid antagonists to negate the actions of inducers. Also there are sequence similarities between various steroid metabolizing enzymes and proteins found in rhizobia, which indicates that these proteins are derived from a common ancestor. For example, 17 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, which catalyzes the interconversion of the alcohol and ketone a C17 on estrogens and androgens, 11 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, which catalyzes the interconversion of the alcohol and ketone at C11 of glucocorticoids, and 3 alpha,20 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, which catalyzes the interconversion of the alcohol and ketone at C20 of corticosteroids, are homologs of proteins found in rhizobia. Thus, the binding of flavonoids to vertebrate proteins may represent an evolutionary linkage between the actions of steroids in mammals and communication between plants and rhizobia.

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PMID: 1562508


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