Among patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), quercetin may induce autophagy in myelodysplastic bone marrow, according to a mouse model analysis published in Environmental Toxicity.

MDS represents a set of clonal hematopoietic disorders that may lead to bone marrow failure, refractory peripheral cytopenia, or progression to acute myeloid leukemia. Most cases of MDS are asymptomatic, though anemia, neutropenia, and thrombocytopenia can be present. Previous studies suggest that the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway plays a crucial role in managing autophagy. In addition, the pathway is frequently overactive in malignancies. Quercetin, an isoflavanoid commonly found in fruits and vegetables, which appears to have antioxidant properties, may be useful for stimulating autophagy.

For this mouse model, researchers aimed to show the status of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling axis in ethyl-nitroso-urea–induced myelodysplasia using flow cytometry, and to determine whether quercetin may be effective for inducing autophagy in MDS. The authors also evaluated any general connection between PI3k/Akt/mTOR signaling and autophagocytosis.

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The model’s results suggested that, in MDS-positive bone marrow, the IGFR/PI3K/Akt axis may be active, though there was also evidence of downregulation in p-mTOR and autophagy (p-Atg1, p-Atg6, Atg7, and Atg12).

There was also evidence that quercetin triggers an upregulation of basal autophagocytosis, possible reversal of oxidative damage, and functionality of the mitochondria and lysosomes.

“[T]he myelodysplastic bone marrow experiences severe hematopoietic devastations during the course of the disease and involves a paradox in bone marrow and peripheral blood manifestations,” the authors wrote. “Lastly, it can be stated that the therapeutic regimen with dietary isoflavanoid quercetin is a curative measure [that] could restore protective autophagocytosis in myelodysplastic cases and could partly revert back the hematologic catastrophic condition.”


Daw S, Law S. Quercetin induces autophagy in myelodysplastic bone marrow including hematopoietic stem/progenitor compartment. Environ Toxicol. Published online September 9, 2020. doi:10.1002/tox.23020