Accumulated evidence shows that some phytochemicals provide beneficial effects for human health. Recently, a number of mechanistic studies have revealed that direct interactions between phytochemicals and functional proteins play significant roles in exhibiting their bioactivities. However, their binding selectivities to biological molecules are considered to be lower due to their small and simple structures. In this study, we found that zerumbone, a bioactive sesquiterpene, binds to numerous proteins with little selectivity. Similar to heat-denatured proteins, zerumbone-modified proteins were recognized by heat shock protein 90, a constitutive molecular chaperone, leading to heat shock factor 1-dependent heat shock protein induction in hepa1c1c7 mouse hepatoma cells. Furthermore, oral administration of this phytochemical up-regulated heat shock protein expressions in the livers of Sprague-Dawley rats. Interestingly, pretreatment with zerumbone conferred a thermoresistant phenotype to hepa1c1c7 cells as well as to the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. It is also important to note that several phytochemicals with higher hydrophobicity or electrophilicity, including phenethyl isothiocyanate and curcumin, markedly induced heat shock proteins, whereas most of the tested nutrients did not. These results suggest that non-specific protein modifications by xenobiotic phytochemicals cause mild proteostress, thereby inducing heat shock response and leading to potentiation of protein quality control systems. We considered these bioactivities to be xenohormesis, an adaptation mechanism against xenobiotic chemical stresses. Heat shock response by phytochemicals may be a fundamental mechanism underlying their various bioactivities.
Intrinsic skin ageing is characterized by atrophy and loss of elasticity. Although the skin hypertrophy induced by photoageing has been studied, the molecular mechanisms of skin atrophy during ageing remain unclear. Here, we report that copper/zinc superoxide dismutase (CuZn-SOD)-deficient mice show atrophic morphology in their skin. This atrophy is accompanied by the degeneration of collagen and elastic fibers, and skin hydroxyproline is also significantly reduced in deficient mice. These imply that the dysfunction of collagen and elastin biosynthesis are involved in the progression of skin thinning. Furthermore, transdermal administration of a vitamin C derivative which can permeate through the membrane, completely reversed the skin thinning and deterioration of collagen and elastin in the mutant mice. These indicate that the vitamin C derivative is a powerful agent for alleviating skin ageing through regeneration of collagen and elastin. The CuZn-SOD-deficient mice might be applicable to evaluation of therapeutic medicines against skin ageing.
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