Influence of cocoa procyanidins on the transcription of interleukin-2 in peripheral blood mononuclear cells

T. K. Mao, J. J. Powell, J. Van De Water, C. L. Keen, H. H. Schmitz, M. E. Gershwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


We have previously shown that cocoa polyphenols (procyanidins) inhibit induced nuclear transcription of human interleukin-1β. In the present study we extend the observed immunomodulatory activity to examine the effects of cocoa procyanidins on the interleukin-2 (IL-2) gene. The transcriptional regulation of IL-2 is critically involved in the control of T-cell proliferation and normal immune response. Both resting and phytohemagglutinin (PHA)-stimulated human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) were investigated. Neither the crude cocoa extract, a procyanidin-enriched extract nor individual oligomeric procyanidins stimulated IL-2 in resting PBMC. However both the crude and the procyanidin-enriched extracts reduced IL-2 transcription in PHA-stimulated cells by 67% and 58%, respectively. Experiments with isolated procyanidins showed that while the monomeric fraction did not alter IL-2 expression, the pentamer; hexamer and heptamer caused a 61-73% inhibition. Thus, it appears that procyanidin oligomers, present in cocoa and chocolate to a significant extent, are responsible for the inhibition of PHA-induced stimulation of IL-2 in PBMC. This provides an additional mechanism in immune regulation when considering the health-benefits of dietary polyphenols from a wide variety of foods and suggests the potential clinical utility of cocoa or its derivatives on disorders of activated immune function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-29
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Immunotherapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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