Researchers have revealed through a study published in journal Scientific Reports that pigments in berries could help regulate a key enzyme in cancer cells. This possibility could pave way for new avenues to treat the deadly disease.
Scientists explain that sirtuins are enzymes regulating the expression of genes that control the function of cells through key cellular signalling pathways. Ageing causes changes in sirtuin function, and these changes contribute to the development of various diseases. Sirtuin 6, or SIRT6 for short, is a less well-known enzyme that is also linked to glucose metabolism.
Berries get their red, blue or purple colour from natural pigments, anthocyanins, according to researchers from University of Eastern Finland.
“The most interesting results of our study relate to cyanidin, which is an anthocyanin found abundantly in wild bilberry, blackcurrant and lingonberry,” said Minna Rahnasto-Rilla, lead author of study.
Cyanidin increased SIRT6 enzyme levels in human colorectal cancer cells, and it was also discovered to decrease the expression of the Twist1 and GLUT1 cancer genes, while increasing the expression of the tumour suppressor FoXO3 gene in cells.
The researchers also designed a computer-based model that allowed them to predict how different flavonoid compounds in plants can regulate the SIRT6 enzyme.
The findings indicate that anthocyanins increase the activation of SIRT6, which may play a role in cancer pathogenesis. The study also lays a foundation for the development of new drugs that regulate SIRT6 function.