• Vaccinium myrtillus L;
  • bilberry;
  • mitochondria;
  • antioxidant;
  • anthocyanins

In this study, the direct influence of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) fruit extracts (aqueous and ethanolic) rich in anthocyanins on the oxidative phosphorylation of isolated rat heart mitochondria was investigated in vitro. Higher concentrations of bilberry extracts concentration-dependently inhibited mitochondrial state 3 respiration (by 23%–61%) with pyruvate plus malate, mildly (by 1.2- to 1.3-fold) uncoupled the oxidative phosphorylation, and increased (by 30%–87%) the state 4 respiration rate in the presence of exogenous cytochrome c. Succinate oxidation was less affected. Pure anthocyanins, the main components of used extracts, malvidin-3-glucoside, malvidin-3-galactoside, and cyanidin-3-galactoside, had no effect on oxidation of pyruvate plus malate. A statistically significant decrease in H2O2 production by mitochondria was found in the presence of bilberry fruit extracts. Our findings show that bilberry fruit anthocyanin-rich extracts possess direct effects on rat heart mitochondrial function in vitro. These findings give the first insights into the mechanism(s) of their action on cellular energy metabolism. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.