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Erythrocyte membrane transporters during human ageing: Modulatory role of tea catechins


Correspondence: Associate Professor Syed I Rizvi, Department of Biochemistry, University of Allahabad, Allahabad 211002, India. Email:


  1. Ageing is associated with many physiological and cellular changes, many of which are due to alterations in the plasma membrane. The functions of membrane transporter proteins are crucial for the maintenance of ionic homeostasis between the extra- and intracellular environments.
  2. The aim of the present study was to determine the status of erythrocyte membrane transporters, specifically Ca2+-ATPases, Na+/K+-ATPases and the Na+/H+ exchanger (NHE), during ageing in humans. Furthermore, because tea catechins have been reported to possess strong anti-oxidant potential, the study was extended to evaluate the effect of (–)-epicatechin (EC), (–)-epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG), (–)-epigallocatechin (EGC) and (–)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) on these transporters as a function of human age.
  3. The study was performed on 97 normal healthy subjects (62 men, 35 women; 16–80 years old). To investigate the effects of tea catechins, subjects were divided into three groups: young (<40 years old; n = 34); middle-aged (40–60 years old; n = 32); and old (>60 years old; n = 31). Erythrocyte ghosts/cell suspension from each group were incubated with ECG, EGCG, EGC and EC (10 μmol/L) for 30 min at 37°C prior to assay.
  4. Ageing significantly increased NHE activity and decreased Ca2+-ATPase activity. There were no significant changes in Na+/K+-ATPase activity during the ageing process.
  5. (–)-Epigallocatechin-3-gallate, EGC, ECG and EC effectively mitigated the changes in membrane transporter activity in erythrocytes from all age groups; however, the effect was more pronounced in the old age group.
  6. We hypothesize that impairment in -bound transporters may be one of the possible mechanisms underlying the pathological events during ageing. A higher intake of catechin-rich food may provide some protection against age-dependent diseases.