Binding of Androgen- and Estrogen-Like Flavonoids to Their Cognate (Non)Nuclear Receptors: A Comparison by Computational Prediction, 2021

Topics: G protein-coupled receptors; androgens; estrogens; flavonoids; genomic action; molecular docking; non-genomic action; nuclear receptors

Authors: Giulia D’Arrigo, Eleonora Gianquinto, Giulia Rossetti, Gabriele Cruciani, Stefano Lorenzetti, Francesca Spyrakis


Flavonoids are plant bioactives that are recognized as hormone-like polyphenols because of their similarity to the endogenous sex steroids 17β-estradiol and testosterone, and to their estrogen- and androgen-like activity. Most efforts to verify flavonoid binding to nuclear receptors (NRs) and explain their action have been focused on ERα, while less attention has been paid to other nuclear and non-nuclear membrane androgen and estrogen receptors. Here, we investigate six flavonoids (apigenin, genistein, luteolin, naringenin, quercetin, and resveratrol) that are widely present in fruits and vegetables, and often used as replacement therapy in menopause. We performed comparative computational docking simulations to predict their capability of binding nuclear receptors ERα, ERβ, ERRβ, ERRγ, androgen receptor (AR), and its variant ART877A and membrane receptors for androgens, i.e., ZIP9, GPRC6A, OXER1, TRPM8, and estrogens, i.e., G Protein-Coupled Estrogen Receptor (GPER). In agreement with data reported in literature, our results suggest that these flavonoids show a relevant degree of complementarity with both estrogen and androgen NR binding sites, likely triggering genomic-mediated effects. It is noteworthy that reliable protein-ligand complexes and estimated interaction energies were also obtained for some suggested estrogen and androgen membrane receptors, indicating that flavonoids could also exert non-genomic actions. Further investigations are needed to clarify flavonoid multiple genomic and non-genomic effects. Caution in their administration could be necessary, until the safe assumption of these natural molecules that are largely present in food is assured.

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