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Ellagitannins of the fruit rind of pomegranate (Punica granatum) antagonize in vitro the host inflammatory response mechanisms involved in the onset of malaria

Mario Dell'Agli1*, Germana V Galli1, Michela Bulgari1, Nicoletta Basilico2, Sergio Romeo3, Deepak Bhattacharya4, Donatella Taramelli2 and Enrica Bosisio1

Author Affiliations

1 Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche, Università degli Studi di Milano, Via Balzaretti, 9 - 20133 Milano, Italy

2 Dipartimento di Sanità Pubblica-Microbiologia-Virologia, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy

3 Dipartimento di Scienze Farmaceutiche "Pietro Pratesi", Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy

4 Oddisi Research Laboratory, Kedar Gouri Road Bhubaneswar, 751002-India

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Malaria Journal 2010, 9:208  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-9-208

Published: 19 July 2010



The sun-dried rind of the immature fruit of pomegranate (Punica granatum) is presently used as a herbal formulation (OMARIA, Orissa Malaria Research Indigenous Attempt) in Orissa, India, for the therapy and prophylaxis of malaria. The pathogenesis of cerebral malaria, a complication of the infection by Plasmodium falciparum, is an inflammatory cytokine-driven disease associated to an up-regulation and activity of metalloproteinase-9 and to the increase of TNF production. The in vitro anti-plasmodial activity of Punica granatum (Pg) was recently described. The aim of the present study was to explore whether the anti-malarial effect of OMARIA could also be sustained via other mechanisms among those associated to the host immune response.


From the methanolic extract of the fruit rind, a fraction enriched in tannins (Pg-FET) was prepared. MMP-9 secretion and expression were evaluated in THP-1 cells stimulated with haemozoin or TNF. The assays were conducted in the presence of the Pg-FET and its chemical constituents ellagic acid and punicalagin. The effect of urolithins, the ellagitannin metabolites formed by human intestinal microflora, was also investigated.


Pg-FET and its constituents inhibited the secretion of MMP-9 induced by haemozoin or TNF. The effect occurred at transcriptional level since MMP-9 mRNA levels were lower in the presence of the tested compounds. Urolithins as well inhibited MMP-9 secretion and expression. Pg-FET and pure compounds also inhibited MMP-9 promoter activity and NF-kB-driven transcription.


The beneficial effect of the fruit rind of Punica granatum for the treatment of malarial disease may be attributed to the anti-parasitic activity and the inhibition of the pro-inflammatory mechanisms involved in the onset of cerebral malaria.