Skip to main content

Volume 16 Supplement 3

Sepsis 2012

Effect of phenolic acids originating from microbes on mitochondria and neutrophils


Several low-molecular-weight phenolic acids are present in the blood of septic patients at high levels [1, 2]. The microbial origin of the most of phenylcarboxylic acids in the human body was shown previously [3], but the pathophysiological role of phenolic acids is not clear. It was shown that microbial phenolic acids produce either the antioxidant or the pro-oxidant action on mitochondria depending on the chemical structure [4]. In this work the influence of phenolic acids on reactive oxygen species (ROS) production in mitochondria and neutrophils was investigated.


Mitochondria were isolated from the liver of Wistar rats. The difference of electric potentials on the inner mitochondrial membrane (ΔψM) was determined from the distribution of the lipophilic cation of tetraphenylphosphonium whose concentration in external medium [TPP+]out was registered using a TPP+-selective electrode. The rate of oxygen consumption by mitochondria was determined polarographically. The production of ROS by mitochondria was determined by measuring the chemiluminescence of the Cypridina luciferin. The generation of superoxide anion was induced by 25 μM menadione. The production of ROS by neutrophils was examined by the method of luminol-dependent chemiluminescence. All reagents used were from Sigma (USA). Statistical processing of the data was carried out using the program MS Excel 2003. The differences were considered significant at P ≤ 0.05.


ROS production by mitochondria was higher in the presence of cinnamic acid, benzoic acid, 3-phenylpropionic acid and phenylacetic acid than in the presence of menadione alone. The most effective activators of ROS production in mitochondria were those phenolic acids whose effect is mediated via the interaction with thiol (-SH) groups. ROS production by mitochondria was lower in the presence of phenyllactate, p-hydroxyphenylacetate or p-hydroxyphenyllactate compared with the control. All phenolic acids inhibited ROS formation in neutrophils to different degrees. The inhibition was related to the scavenging of the superoxide anion.


Microbial metabolites from both the normal gut microbiota and infection sources enter the circulation and can enhance or reduce the inflammatory response. In healthy people phenyllactate and p-hydroxyphenyllactate, which decrease ROS production in both in mitochondria and neutrophils, can have the protecting effect on organs and tissues. They can play a role of natural antioxidants. But in septic patients deficit phenolic acids producing the pro-oxidant effects on mitochondria (for example, PPA and PAA) and high levels of other phenols can led to mitochondrial dysfunction and multiorgan failure.


  1. Beloborodova NV, Osipov GA: Small molecules originating from microbes (SMOM) and their role in microbes-host relationship. Microbial Ecol Health Dis 2000, 12: 12-21. 10.1080/089106000435545

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Khodakova AS, Beloborodova NV: Microbial metabolites in the blood of patients with sepsis. Crit Care 2007, 11: P5.

    Article  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  3. Beloborodova NV, Khodakova AS, Bairamov IT, Olenin AY: Microbial origin of phenylcarboxylic acids in the human body. Biochemistry (Moscow) 2009, 74: 1350-1355. 10.1134/S0006297909120086

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Fedotcheva NI, Kazakov RE, Kondrashova MN, Beloborodova NV: Toxic effects of microbial phenolic acids on the functions of mitochondria. Toxicol Lett 2008, 180: 182-188. 10.1016/j.toxlet.2008.06.861

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


This work was supported by the Russian Ministry of Education and Science (Project No. 16.512.11.2227).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Beloborodova, N., Olenin, A., Fedotcheva, N. et al. Effect of phenolic acids originating from microbes on mitochondria and neutrophils. Crit Care 16 (Suppl 3), P26 (2012).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI:


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Reactive Oxygen Species Production
  • Phenolic Acid
  • Cinnamic Acid
  • Menadione