Letter to the editor

Quercetin and its role in biological functions: an updated review

Jae Kwang Kim1, Sang Un Park2[*]

1Division of Life Sciences and Convergence Research Center for Insect Vectors, Incheon National University, Incheon 22012, Korea

2Department of Crop Science, Chungnam National University, 99 Daehak-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon, 34134, Korea

EXCLI J 2018;17:Doc856


Dear Editor,

Quercetin is an important flavonol among the members of six subclasses of flavonoid compounds. The name quercetin was derived from quercetum (after Quercus, i.e., oak), and has been used since 1857 (Fischer et al., 1997[21]). It has been named as 3,3′,4′,5,7-pentahydroxyflavone by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). It is also known by its synonym 3,3′,4′,5,7-pentahydroxy-2-phenylchromen-4-one (Li et al., 2016[33]). Quercetin is the most widely distributed and extensively studied flavonoid found in various food sources, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, wine, and seeds (Oboh et al., 2016[44]). Quercetin has various biological properties, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, radical-scavenging, gastroprotective, and immune-modulatory activities (Anand David et al., 2016[6]; Massi et al., 2017[39]). In addition, in several recently-filed patents the wide therapeutic applications of quercetin and its derivatives have been described in detail (Chen et al., 2016[15]; Eid and Haddad, 2017[19]; Sharma et al., 2018[50]).

Quercetin exhibits a wide range of biological activities and therapeutic applications, which are of interest to the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and food industries (Biler et al., 2017[10]). Here, we summarize the recent studies that have evaluated the biological and pharmacological activities of quercetin (Table 1(Tab. 1); References in Table 1: Abdelhalim et al., 2018[1]; Afifi et al., 2018[2]; Aghapour et al., 2018[3]; Ahmed et al., 2018[4]; Al-Asmari et al., 2018[5]; Ansar et al., 2016[7]; Atef et al., 2017[8]; Beghoul et al., 2017[9]; Calgarotto et al., 2018[11]; Chan et al., 2018[12]; Chang et al., 2017[13]; Chen et al., 2017[14]; Damiano et al., 2018[16]; Dong et al., 2017[17]; Duranti et al., 2018[18]; Esrefoglu et al., 2017[20]; Funakoshi et al., 2017[22]; Guo et al., 2017[23]; He et al., 2016[24]; Huang et al., 2017[25]; Jeon et al., 2017[26]; Ji et al., 2017[27]; Ju et al., 2018[28]; Kee et al., 2016[29]; Lan et al., 2017[30]; Lazo-Gomez and Tapia, 2017[31]; Li et al., 2018[32]; Liu and Zhou, 2017[34]; Liu et al., 2017[35]; Lu et al., 2018[36]; Maciel et al., 2016[37]; Maksymchuk et al., 2017[38]; Mitani et al., 2017[40]; Mkhize et al., 2017[41]; Naseer et al., 2017[42]; Pandya et al., 2017[45]; Patrizio et al., 2018[46]; Qin et al., 2017[47]; Ren et al., 2018[48]; Sameni et al., 2018[49]; Singh et al., 2018[51]; Sohn et al., 2018[52]; Tinay et al., 2017[53]; Veith et al., 2017[54]; Wu et al., 2018[55]; Xingyu et al., 2016[56]; Yang et al., 2017[57]; Yang et al., 2018[58]; Yarahmadi et al., 2017[60]; Yarahmadi et al., 2018[59]; Yazıcı et al., 2018[61]; Yuan et al., 2016[63]; Yuan et al., 2018[62]; Zhang et al., 2018[64]; Zhao et al., 2017[65]; Zhu et al., 2018[66]).


This work was supported by a grant from the Next-Generation BioGreen 21 Program (SSAC, Project #. PJ013328)" Rural Development Administration, Republic of Korea.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.



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3. Aghapour F, Moghadamnia AA, Nicolini A, Kani SNM, Barari L, Morakabati P, et al. Quercetin conjugated with silica nanoparticles inhibits tumor growth in MCF-7 breast cancer cell lines. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2018;500:860-5.
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12. Chan ST, Chuang CH, Lin YC, Liao JW, Lii CK, Yeh SL. Quercetin enhances the antitumor effect of trichostatin A and suppresses muscle wasting in tumor-bearing mice. Food Funct. 2018;9:871-9.
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16. Damiano S, Sasso A, De Felice B, Di Gregorio I, La Rosa G, Lupoli GA, et al. Quercetin increases MUC2 and MUC5AC gene expression and secretion in intestinal goblet cell-like LS174T via PLC/PKCα/ ERK1-2 pathway. Front Physiol. 2018;9:357.
17. Dong F, Wang S, Wang Y, Yang X, Jiang J, Wu D, et al. Quercetin ameliorates learning and memory via the Nrf2-ARE signaling pathway in d-galactose-induced neurotoxicity in mice. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2017;491:636-41.
18. Duranti G, Ceci R, Patrizio F, Sgrò P, Di Luigi L, Sabatini S, et al. Chronic consumption of quercetin reduces erythrocytes oxidative damage: Evaluation at resting and after eccentric exercise in humans. Nutr Res. 2018;50:73-81.
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20. Esrefoglu M, Cetin A, Taslidere E, Elbe H, Ates B, Tok OE, et al. Therapeutic effects of melatonin and quercetin in improvement of hepatic steatosis in rats through supression of oxidative damage. Bratisl Lek Listy. 2017;118:347-54.
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22. Funakoshi T, Kanzaki N, Otsuka Y, Izumo T, Shibata H, Machida S. Quercetin inhibits adipogenesis of muscle progenitor cells in vitro. Biochem Biophys Rep. 2017;13:39-44.
23. Guo C, Yang RJ, Jang K, Zhou XL, Liu YZ. Protective effects of pretreatment with quercetin against lipopolysaccharide-induced apoptosis and the inhibition of osteoblast differentiation via the MAPK and Wnt/β-catenin pathways in MC3T3-E1 Cells. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2017;43:1547-61.
24. He L, Hou X, Fan F, Wu H. Quercetin stimulates mitochondrial apoptosis dependent on activation of endoplasmic reticulum stress in hepatic stellate cells. Pharm Biol. 2016;54:3237-43.
25. Huang S, Zhu X, Huang W, He Y, Pang L, Lan X, et al. Quercetin inhibits pulmonary arterial endothelial cell transdifferentiation possibly by Akt and Erk1/2 pathways. Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:6147294.
26. Jeon SJ, Kim MO, Ali-Shah F, Koh PO. Quercetin attenuates the injury-induced reduction of γ-enolase expression in a middle cerebral artery occlusion animal model. Lab Anim Res. 2017;33:308-14.
27. Ji C, Xu Y, Han F, Sun D, Zhang H, Li X, et al. Quercetin alleviates thermal and cold hyperalgesia in a rat neuropathic pain model by inhibiting Toll-like receptor signaling. Biomed Pharmacother. 2017;94:652-8.
28. Ju S, Ge Y, Li P, Tian X, Wang H, Zheng X, et al. Dietary quercetin ameliorates experimental colitis in mouse by remodeling the function of colonic macrophages via a heme oxygenase-1-dependent pathway. Cell Cycle. 2018;17:53-63.
29. Kee JY, Han YH, Kim DS, Mun JG, Park J, Jeong MY, et al. Inhibitory effect of quercetin on colorectal lung metastasis through inducing apoptosis, and suppression of metastatic ability. Phytomedicine. 2016;23:1680-90.
30. Lan H, Hong W, Fan P, Qian D, Zhu J, Bai B. Quercetin inhibits cell migration and invasion in human osteosarcoma cells. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2017;43:553-67.
31. Lazo-Gomez R, Tapia R. Quercetin prevents spinal motor neuron degeneration induced by chronic excitotoxic stimulus by a sirtuin 1-dependent mechanism. Transl Neurodegener. 2017;6:31.
32. Li S, Yuan S, Zhao Q, Wang B, Wang X, Li K. Quercetin enhances chemotherapeutic effect of doxorubicin against human breast cancer cells while reducing toxic side effects of it. Biomed Pharmacother. 2018;100:441-7.
33. Li Y, Yao J, Han C, Yang J, Chaudhry MT, Wang S, et al. Quercetin, inflammation and immunity. Nutrients. 2016;8(3):167.
34. Liu H, Zhou M. Antitumor effect of quercetin on Y79 retinoblastoma cells via activation of JNK and p38 MAPK pathways. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2017;17(1):531.
35. Liu Y, Tang ZG, Lin Y, Qu XG, Lv W, Wang GB, et al. Effects of quercetin on proliferation and migration of human glioblastoma U251 cells. Biomed Pharmacother. 2017;92:33-8.
36. Lu H, Wu L, Liu L, Ruan Q, Zhang X, Hong W, et al. Quercetin ameliorates kidney injury and fibrosis by modulating M1/M2 macrophage polarization. Biochem Pharmacol. 2018;154:203-12.
37. Maciel RM, Carvalho FB, Olabiyi AA, Schmatz R, Gutierres JM, Stefanello N, et al. Neuroprotective effects of quercetin on memory and anxiogenic-like behavior in diabetic rats: Role of ectonucleotidases and acetylcholinesterase activities. Biomed Pharmacother. 2016;84:559-68.
38. Maksymchuk O, Shysh A, Rosohatska I, Chashchyn M. Quercetin prevents type 1 diabetic liver damage through inhibition of CYP2E1. Pharmacol Rep. 2017;69:1386-92.
39. Massi A, Bortolini O, Ragno D, Bernardi T, Sacchetti G, Tacchini M, et al. Research progress in the modification of quercetin leading to anticancer agents. Molecules. 2017;22(8):E1270.
40. Mitani A, Azam A, Vuppusetty C, Ito K, Mercado N, Barnes PJ. Quercetin restores corticosteroid sensitivity in cells from patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Exp Lung Res. 2017;43:417-25.
41. Mkhize NVP, Qulu L, Mabandla MV. The effect of quercetin on pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines in a prenatally stressed rat model of febrile seizures. J Exp Neurosci. 2017;11:1179069517704668.
42. Naseer Z, Ahmad E, Epikmen ET, Uçan U, Boyacioğlu M, İpek E, et al. Quercetin supplemented diet improves follicular development, oocyte quality, and reduces ovarian apoptosis in rabbits during summer heat stress. Theriogenology. 2017;96:136-41.
43. Nie J, Liu X. Quercetin alleviates generalized hyperalgesia in mice with induced adenomyosis. Mol Med Rep. 2017;16:5370-6.
44. Oboh G, Ademosun AO, Ogunsuyi OB. Quercetin and its role in chronic diseases. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2016;929:377-87.
45. Pandya M, Kalappanavar AN, Annigeri RG, Rao DS. Relative efficacy of quercetin compared with benzydamine hydrochloride in minor aphthae: A prospective, parallel, double blind, active control, preliminary study. Int J Dent. 2017;2017:7034390.
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47. Qin M, Chen W, Cui J, Li W, Liu D, Zhang W. Protective efficacy of inhaled quercetin for radiation pneumonitis. Exp Ther Med. 2017;14:5773-8.
48. Ren K, Jiang T, Zhao GJ. Quercetin induces the selective uptake of HDL-cholesterol via promoting SR-BI expression and the activation of the PPARγ/ LXRα pathway. Food Funct. 2018;9:624-35.
49. Sameni HR, Javadinia SS, Safari M, Tabrizi Amjad MH, Khanmohammadi N, Parsaie H, et al. Effect of quercetin on the number of blastomeres, zona pellucida thickness, and hatching rate of mouse embryos exposed to actinomycin D: An experimental study. Int J Reprod Biomed (Yazd). 2018;16(2):101-8.
50. Sharma A, Kashyap D, Sak K, Tuli HS, Sharma AK. Therapeutic charm of quercetin and its derivatives: a review of research and patents. Pharm Pat Anal. 2018;7:15-32.
51. Singh S, Kushwah V, Agrawal AK, Jain S. Insulin- and quercetin-loaded liquid crystalline nanoparticles: implications on oral bioavailability, antidiabetic and antioxidant efficacy. Nanomedicine (Lond). 2018;13:521-37.
52. Sohn EJ, Kim JM, Kang SH, Kwon J, An HJ, Sung JS, et al. Restoring effects of natural anti-oxidant quercetin on cellular senescent human dermal fibroblasts. Am J Chin Med. 2018;8:1-21.
53. Tinay I, Sener TE, Cevik O, Cadirci S, Toklu H, Cetinel S, et al. Antioxidant agent quercetin prevents impairment of bladder tissue contractility and apoptosis in a rat model of ischemia/reperfusion injury. Low Urin Tract Symptoms. 2017;9:117-23.
54. Veith C, Drent M, Bast A, van Schooten FJ, Boots AW. The disturbed redox-balance in pulmonary fibrosis is modulated by the plant flavonoid quercetin. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2017;336:40-8.
55. Wu Q, Needs PW, Lu Y, Kroon PA, Ren D, Yang X. Different antitumor effects of quercetin, quercetin-3'-sulfate and quercetin-3-glucuronide in human breast cancer MCF-7 cells. Food Funct. 2018;9:1736-46.
56. Xingyu Z, Peijie M, Dan P, Youg W, Daojun W, Xinzheng C, et al. Quercetin suppresses lung cancer growth by targeting Aurora B kinase. Cancer Med. 2016;5:3156-65.
57. Yang J, Kim CS, Tu TH, Kim MS, Goto T, Kawada T, et al. Quercetin protects obesity-induced hypothalamic inflammation by reducing microglia-mediated inflammatory responses via HO-1 induction. Nutrients. 2017;9(7):E650.
58. Yang Y, Liu X, Wu T, Zhang W, Shu J, He Y, et al. Quercetin attenuates AZT-induced neuroinflammation in the CNS. Sci Rep. 2018;8(1):6194.
59. Yarahmadi A, Khademi F, Mostafavi-Pour Z, Zal F. In-vitro analysis of glucose and quercetin effects on m-TOR and Nrf-2 Expression in HepG2 cell line (diabetes and cancer connection). Nutr Cancer. 2018;21:1-6.
60. Yarahmadi A, Zal F, Bolouki A. Protective effects of quercetin on nicotine induced oxidative stress in 'HepG2 cells'. Toxicol Mech Methods. 2017;27:609-14.
61. Yazıcı S, Ozcan CU, Hismiogullari AA, Sunay FB, Ozcan T, Berksoy EA, et al. Protective effects of quercetin on necrotizing enterocolitis in a neonatal rat model. Am J Perinatol. 2018;35:434-40.
62. Yuan TY, Niu ZR, Chen D, Chen YC, Zhang HF, Fang LH, et al. Vasorelaxant effect of quercetin on cerebral basilar artery in vitro and the underlying mechanisms study. J Asian Nat Prod Res. 2018;25:1-11.
63. Yuan Y, Ma S, Qi Y, Wei X, Cai H, Dong L, et al. Quercetin inhibited cadmium-induced autophagy in the mouse kidney via inhibition of oxidative stress. J Toxicol Pathol. 2016;29:247-52.
64. Zhang C, Wang R, Zhang G, Gong D. Mechanistic insights into the inhibition of quercetin on xanthine oxidase. Int J Biol Macromol. 2018;112:405-12.
65. Zhao L, Zhang Q, Ma W, Tian F, Shen H, Zhou M. A combination of quercetin and resveratrol reduces obesity in high-fat diet-fed rats by modulation of gut microbiota. Food Funct. 2017;8:4644-56.
66. Zhu Y, Teng T, Wang H, Guo H, Du L, Yang B, et al. Quercetin inhibits renal cyst growth in vitro and via parenteral injection in a polycystic kidney disease mouse model. Food Funct. 2018;9:389-96.

Table 1: Recent studies of the biological and pharmacological activities of quercetin

[*] Corresponding Author:

Sang Un Park, Department of Crop Science, Chungnam National University, 99 Daehak-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon, 34134, Korea; Tel.: +82-42-821-5730, Fax: +82-42-822-2631, eMail: supark@cnu.ac.kr