The affinities of genistein on phosphodiesterase (PDE)1-4 and cause of gastrointestinal adverse effects of genistein remain unclear. Female BALB/c mice were actively sensitized by intraperitoneal injections of ovalbumin and challenged by aerosolized ovalbumin (1%). After secondary challenge, aerosolized methacholine (6.25-50mg/ml) induced increases of enhanced pause (P enh) values in conscious mice in a concentration-dependent manner. Genistein (30-100μmol/kg, i.p.) markedly inhibited methacholine (12.5-50mg/ml)-induced increase of P enh value in the sensitized and challenged mice. In addition, genistein significantly reduced total inflammatory cells, macrophages, lymphocytes, neutrophils, and eosinophils in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, with the exception that lymphocytes and neutrophils were not significantly inhibited by genistein at the lowest dose (10μmol/kg). Genistein also markedly attenuated the release of cytokines, including interleukin (IL)-2, IL-4, IL-5, interferon (IFN)-γ and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α. Genistein competitively inhibited PDE1-4, with a K i value ranging from 4.3 to 13.7μM. Genistein (3-300μM) concentration-dependently displaced 2nM [ 3H]-rolipram bound on high-affinity rolipram binding sites of brain cell membranes. The therapeutic ratio of genistein was calculated to be 7.9. Genistein (100μmol/kg, s.c.) significantly shortened xylazine/ketamine-induced anesthesia, suggesting that genistein administered at a higher dose may have gastrointestinal adverse effects. In conclusion, owing to the low therapeutic ratio of genistein, the gastrointestinal adverse effects may be induced via the binding of genistein on high-affinity rolipram binding sites of brain cell membranes, when it is used for a long term or at higher doses for treating allergies, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
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