Synthesis of 2-methoxy benzoquinone and 2,6-dimethoxybenzoquinone by selected lactic acid bacteria during sourdough fermentation of wheat germ
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Background: In the last decade, several studies described the promising cytotoxic activity of fermented wheat germ towards cancer cell lines and during in vivo clinical trials. Recent data suggested that the antiproliferative, antimetastatic and immunological effects of this preparation are mainly attributed to quinones. This study aimed at exploiting the potential of sourdough lactic acid bacteria fermentation to release 2-methoxy benzoquinone, and 2,6-dimethoxybenzoquinone, which are naturally present in wheat germ as glycosylated and non-physiologically active form. Results: Preliminarily, forty strains of lactic acid bacteria, previously isolated from wheat germ, were in vitro screened based on β-glucosidase activity. Lactobacillus plantarum LB1 and Lactobacillus rossiae LB5 were selected based on the highest enzyme activity and on technology features. These strains were used in combination to ferment wheat germ. Raw wheat germ, without bacterial inoculum, was subjected to the same incubation and used as the control. The sourdough fermented wheat germ was characterized based on microbiological, physico-chemical and biochemical features. During incubation, the release of the non-glycosylated and physiologically active 2-methoxy benzoquinone, and 2,6-dimethoxybenzoquinone was almost completed during 24 h. Compared to the control, the concentration of the above bioactive compounds increased almost 4 and 6-folds. Both raw wheat germ (control) and sourdough fermented wheat germ were ex vivo assayed for the anti-proliferative activity towards various cell lines of germ cell tumor, colon carcinoma and ovarian carcinoma. While no effect was found for the raw wheat germ, the sourdough fermented preparation markedly and variously affected the human tumor cell lines. The values of IC50 ranged from 0.105 ± 0.005 to 0.556 ± 0.071 mg/ml, with a median value of IC50 of 0.302 mg/ml. Conclusions: These results are comparable to those found for other well-known pharmaceutical preparations, and may disclose the use of the sourdough fermented wheat germ as an ingredient, nutritional supplement and/or anticancer drug.