The possibility of counteracting inflammation-related barrier defects with dietary compounds such as (poly)phenols has raised much interest, but information is still scarce. We have investigated here if (+)-catechin (CAT) and procyanidin B2 (PB2), two main dietary polyphenols, protect the barrier function of intestinal cells undergoing inflammatory stress. The cell model adopted consisted of co-cultured Caco-2 and HT29-MTX cells, while inflammatory conditions were mimicked through the incubation of epithelial cells with the conditioned medium of activated macrophages (MCM). The epithelial barrier function was monitored through trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TEER), and ROS production was assessed with dichlorofluorescein, while the expression of tight-junctional proteins and signal transduction pathways were evaluated with Western blot. The results indicated that MCM produced significant oxidative stress, the activation of NF-κB and MAPK pathways, a decrease in occludin and ZO-1 expression, and an increase in claudin-7 (CL-7) expression, while TEER was markedly lowered. Neither CAT nor PB2 prevented oxidative stress, transduction pathways activation, ZO-1 suppression, or TEER decrease. However, PB2 prevented the decrease in occludin expression and both polyphenols produced a huge increase in CL-7 abundance. It is concluded that, under the conditions adopted, CAT and PB2 do not prevent inflammation-dependent impairment of the epithelial barrier function of intestinal cell monolayers. However, the two compounds modify the expression of tight-junctional proteins and, in particular, markedly increase the expression of CL-7. These insights add to a better understanding of the potential biological activity of these major dietary flavan-3-ols at intestinal level.
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