- Open Access
Dietary supplementation with a high dose of daidzein enhances the antioxidant capacity in swine muscle but experts pro-oxidant function in liver and fat tissues
© The Author(s). 2016
- Received: 27 October 2015
- Accepted: 16 July 2016
- Published: 2 August 2016
Although isoflavones are natural dietary antioxidants, they may have toxicological effects. This study aimed to evaluate the redox system in tissues of finishing pigs by supplementation with high dose of daidzein (640 mg/kg).
The supplementation of high dose of daidzein for 64 d increased the activity of superoxide dismutase and total antioxidant capacity in longissimus muscle but down-regulated the expression of reactive oxygen species (ROS)-producing enzyme NADPH oxidase-2 and cyclooxygenase-2. In contrast, high-level supplementation with daidzein exerted pro-oxidant changes in back fat, abdominal fat, liver, and plasma, as reflected by increased contents of malondialdehyde, a lipid peroxidation product, in these tissues. Furthermore, daidzein supplementation resulted in higher expression of ROS-producing enzymes, including NADPH oxidase-1 and cyclooxygenase-1 in liver, 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX) in backfat and NADPH oxidase-2 both in abdominal fat and backfat. The supplementation of daidzein did not affect meat quality parameters in longissimus muscle, including marbling score, eye muscle areas, intramuscular fat, shear force, drip loss, pH and meat color.
This experiment suggests that dietary supplementation of finishing pigs with daidzein at a high dose level improves redox status in muscle but exerts pro-oxidant effect in liver and fat tissues.
- Anti-/pro-oxidant enzyme
Soy isoflavones, mainly composed of daidzein, genistein and glycitein, are known from in vitro studies to be active scavengers of hydrogen peroxide, hence acting as potential antioxidants. Because of this property [1, 2], isoflavones are considered to be natural dietary antioxidants with interesting benefits to health ; there is also potential for their use in animal production to improve growth performance . There is, however, some controversy about the beneficial antioxidant effects of soy isoflavones because, for example, genistein and its methylated derivative, biochanin A, can mobilize nuclear copper in human lymphocytes, leading to degradation of cellular DNA . There is increasing evidence for both antioxidant and pro-oxidant activities of isoflavones, depending upon the specific experimental conditions [6, 7]. These studies suggest a pro-oxidant potential of high concentrations of isoflavones.
Because of this pro-oxidant potential, one consideration for their application in practical animal production is whether dietary supplementation at high doses of isoflavones might change the redox system in muscle, thereby possibly affecting meat quality. Oxidative stress has been shown to reduce collagen solubility , possibly affecting toughness of meat. Direct evidence of negative consequences of high doses of isoflavones is still scarce in practical animal production. Accordingly, the objective of present study was to test the effects of dietary supplementation of high dose of the isoflavone daidzein on redox system in skeletal muscle, liver, and back fat and meat quality. The level of supplementation used here, 640 mg/kg feed, is 15 times higher than that providing optimal antioxidant function .
The experimental protocol used in this study, including animal management, housing, and slaughter procedures, was approved by the Animal Care and Use Committee of Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
Animal and housing
Composition of the basal diet fed to finishing pigs (as-fed basis)
Calculated chemical composition
P, total, %
P, available, %
Met + Cys, %
Pigs were weighed after fasting for 12 h at the beginning and end of the 64-d finishing period to determine average daily gain (ADG). Feed and water were provided ad libitum throughout the entire experiment period. Average daily feed intake (ADFI) for pigs was calculated as feed offered minus feed refused every 7 d. Average daily gain: feed intake (G:F) was obtained based on ADG and ADFI. On d 64, heparinized blood (10 mL) was collected by jugular venipuncture from 1 gilt and 1 barrow in each pen, 4 h after feeding (1400 h). Blood was held on ice until centrifugation (3,000 × g for 15 min at 4 °C), aliquots of plasma were stored at -20 °C for subsequent analysis. The blood-sampled barrows (n = 6 in each treatment group) were then fasted for 12 h, with water available, weighed on d 65 and electrically stunned and exsanguinated. Back fat, abdominal fat, liver and longissimus muscle (6/7th lumbar vertebra level) were immediately sampled, snap-frozen in liquid nitrogen, and stored at -80 °C for subsequent analysis. Back fat thicknesses at the first rib, 6/7th, 10th, last rib, and the last lumbar vertebra were measured as was longissimus muscle area between the 10th and 11th ribs. Eye muscle areas were measured from digital images of a slice of longissimus muscle taken between the 10th and 11th ribs.
Meat quality traits
The following meat quality measurements were made on longissimus muscle.
Loin color components and pH
Loin color components and pH were assayed following the method of Cherel et al. . The CIE L* (lightness), a* (redness), and b* (yellowness) values were determined from a mean of four random readings (two readings for each chop) at 45 min or 24 h postmortem using a Minolta chromameter CR-300 (Osaka, Japan), with a D65 illuminant and a 1-cm diameter aperture. The pH at 45 min, 24 h or 48 h postmortem was measured directly in longissimus muscle (7/8th rib) using pH meter (Ingold Xerolyte electrode, Knick pH-meter, Berlin, Germany).
Drip loss, marbling score and shear force
After slaughter, two 2.5 cm-thick longissimus muscle chops (10/11th rib) were visually evaluated for marbling (1 = devoid to 10 = abundant). The same day, one slices of longissimus muscle (approximately 100 g, 9/10th rib to the last rib) were collected, trimmed of external fat and perimysium, weighed, and kept at 4 °C in a plastic bag for a subsequent 45 min, 24 h or 48 h for determination of drip loss after muscle were sampled . Drip loss was calculated as a percentage: [(initial weight-final weight)/initial weight] × 100. According to Trefan et al. , shear force value (expressed in Newtons) was measured perpendicular to the axis of muscle fibers in 8 replicates for each sample.
Intramuscular fat determination
Muscle slices were also taken on the last rib longissimus muscle, trimmed of external fat, minced, and freeze-dried before determination of intramuscular fat content after chloroform-methanol extraction, as described previously . Lipid content of fresh tissue (g/100 g) was calculated by taking into account the dry matter content determined from the weight of minced tissue before and after freeze-drying.
Antioxidant enzyme activity
Activities of catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), and total superoxide dismutase (T-SOD), total antioxidant capacity (T-AOC), glutathione-S-transferase (GST) and γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase (γ-GCS) in plasma or muscle homogenates were measured in duplicate using commercial assay kits (Nanjing Jiancheng Bioengineering Institute, Nanjing, China) and a plate reader. The oxidized glutathione (GSSG) and reduced glutathione (GSH) concentration in plasma were assayed according to the kit instruction (Nanjing Jiancheng Bioengineering Institute, Nanjing, China). Supernatants, after perchloric acid extraction (muscle and liver homogenized in 4 vol 1 mol/L cold acid and centrifugation) were used to measure GSSG and reduced GSH content with a kit from the same company. Enzyme activity, GSSG and reduced GSH content in muscle and liver were standardized against protein concentrations.
Plasma prooxidant-antioxidant balance (PAB) assay
A PAB method, slightly modified from that described by Alamdari et al.  was used for assay of plasma. Acetate buffer (50 mmol/L, pH 4.5) was used instead of phosphate:citrate buffer and pure 3,3′,5,5′-tetramethylbenzidine (TMB) in dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) was used instead of reagent tablets. The assay “working solution” was essentially the same and conditions for performing the assay and expressing PAB were almost identical. Full details of the modifications are available upon request. The values of the PAB are expressed in arbitrary HK units, being the percentage of hydrogen peroxide in the standard solution.
Determination of tissue MDA content
The extent of lipid oxidation in plasma, liver, longissimus muscle, backfat and abdominal fat was determined by measuring levels of malondialdehyde (MDA), a secondary lipid oxidation product. The thiobarbituric acid method of Raharjo et al.  was used and results were expressed as nmol/L for plasma and nmol/mg protein in solid tissues; protein was measured by the BCA method.
Isolation of RNA and real-time PCR
Oligonucleotide polymerase chain reaction primers
Product length, bp
The results are presented as the mean ± SE. Body weight (initial and ending), ADFI, ADG and G:F were analyzed using one-way ANOVA. Following the method of White et al. , the statistical model included dietary supplementation, replicate, and the interaction of dietary supplementation × replicate as sources of variation. Means were compared using preplanned pairwise t-test. Calculations were made using PROC MIXED and PDIFF option (SAS Inst. Inc., Cary, NC). Drip loss, pH and color of meat were analyzed using one-way ANOVA with repeated measures. The statistical model included dietary supplementation, replicate, time and all two- and three-way interactions as sources of variation. Pig with dietary supplementation × replicate was used as random variable in the model. Means were compared using a preplanned pairwise t-test. Calculations were made using PROC MIXED of SAS with the REPEATED statement. The back fat was analyzed using one-way ANOVA with repeated measures. The statistical model included dietary supplementation, replicate, backfat location and all two- and three-way interactions as sources of variation. Means were compared using preplanned pairwise t-tests. Calculations were made using PROC MIXED of SAS, and means were separated using PDIFF option of SAS.
Effects of high-level supplementation with daidzein on growth performance in finishing pigsa
Initial body weight, kg
Final body weight, kg
Average weight gain, g/d
Average feed intake, g/d
Changes in plasma antioxidant enzymes of finishing pigs fed a high dose of supplemental daidzeina
Changes in antioxidant indicators in the longissimus muscle of finishing barrows fed a high dose of supplemental daidzeina
GPxc, U/mg pro
T-AOCd, U/mg pro
T-SODe, U/mg pro
Effects of high-level supplementation with daidzein on indices of meat quality in finishing pigsa
Eye muscle areas, cm2
Intramuscular fat, %
Shear force, Newton
Drip loss, %
Changes in antioxidant indicators in the liver of finishing barrows fed a high dose of supplemental daidzeina
CATc, U/mg pro
T-AOCd, U/mg pro
T-SODe, U/mg pro
In the present study, consumption of a high level of dietary daidzein increased average feed intake, but the increase did not lead to greater daily gain. Kishida et al.  found that dietary supplementation with compound of daidzein and genistein resulted in reduced feed intake in female rats but not in male rats. The present study has shown increased thickness of thoracic and lumbar back fat (first and the last rib and last lumbar vertebra), suggesting a stimulatory effect of daidzein on fat deposition in these finishing barrows. In 3 T3-L1 cells, daidzein enhanced adipocyte differentiation and PPARγ expression in a dose-dependent manner , and supplementation of 50 mg/kg dietary genistein increased the weight of epididymal and renal fat pads in male mice . Other studies show quite different outcomes. Ovariectomized adult female mice, supplemented with 1500 mg/kg dietary genistein for 3 wk had reduced fat pads and body weight, and increased apoptosis in adipose tissue . Daidzein (50 mg/kg BW, i.p.) reduced short-term feed intake of rats and down-regulated the fatty acid synthesis-related gene expression in adipose tissue . Daidzein was also shown to inhibit the adipogenesis in mesenchymal stem cells through stimulation of lipolysis . Additionally, administration of 450 mg/(kg×d) soy isoflavones caused reduction in the body weight and deposition of visceral adipose tissue in high-fat-diet induced insulin resistant rats .
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are normal metabolic products and play important roles in mediating cell function, including cell signaling  and protection against environmental insults, both biological and chemical [25, 26]. Imbalance between ROS production and scavenging systems results in oxidative injury to proteins, DNA, and lipids . Several enzyme systems contribute to the production of ROS, including NOX, xanthine oxidase, COX and P450  while SOD, GPx and CAT are the principle antioxidant enzymes that eliminate cellular ROS, and GSH provides non-enzymatic defense . These anti-and pro-oxidant systems were evaluated here to assess the pro-oxidant potential of daidzein, at high level supplementation. The down-regulation of NOX2 and COX2 in longissimus muscle of finishing pigs was unexpected and suggests a suppressive effect of the high dose of daidzein on the pro-oxidant system. Until now, there was no direct evidence of daidzein influencing the NOX system though similar dietary supplementation with genistein (500 mg/kg) and equol (250 mg/kg) conferred neuroprotection in rats by reducing NOX activity and upregulating antioxidant genes . Similarly, a moderate concentration of genistein (50 or 100 μmol/L) suppressed expression of the p22phox NADPH oxidase subunit in aortic endothelial cells from stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats . Consistent with the present results, the inhibitory role of genistein in regulating NADPH oxidase was also demonstrated in human oral squamous carcinoma cells  and in a diabetic mouse model subjected to chronic i.p. treatment with genistein .
Another ROS-producing system in oxidative stress, COX, is involved in prostaglandin synthesis  and COX2 expression in muscle of the finishing pigs was down-regulated by high-dose supplementation with daidzein. A major metabolite of daidzein, 7,3′,4′-trihydroxyisoflavone (THIF), inhibited ultraviolet B-induced COX2 expression through inhibition of nuclear factor (NF-κB) transcriptional activity in mouse epidermal JB6 P+ cells . The enhanced ROS-scavenging enzyme (SOD), as well as the suppressed ROS-inducing enzyme (NADPH oxidase and cyclooxygenase) in the muscle of pigs fed high dose of daidzein, represents the shift towards antioxidant in the pro/antioxidant balance, which finally contributes to the reduced lipid peroxidation in muscle. The present results indicate that high-dose dietary daidzein increased antioxidant enzymes in muscle so both processes contribute to an improved redox status. Despite this outcome, there was no overall effect of daidzein on the meat quality.
In contrast to the effects in muscle, daidzein appeared to exert pro-oxidant potential in liver, back fat and abdominal fat, based on levels of the lipid peroxidation marker MDA in these tissues. There were significant increases in the plasma concentrations of MDA and PAB value in just the barrows, indicating a pro-oxidant effect of the high-level supplementation with daidzein. The increased plasma activity of γ-GCS is probably a feed-back response to pro-oxidative effects of daidzein. The expression of NOX2 was up-regulated by daidzein both in backfat and abdominal fat, which is contrast to that observed in muscle. Similarly, significant up-regulation of COX1 and NOX1 in liver as well as increased expression of 5-LOX in backfat were also observed in the pigs fed high dose of daidzein. In accordance with the results, the recent report showed that high concentration of genistein, with similar chemical structure to daidzein, increased cellular ROS production by up-regulating 5-LOX . Likewise, it has been reported that LOX mediates the pro-oxidative effect of the anti-oxidant melatonin via stimulation of arachidonic acid metabolism . Lipoxygenases (LOX), an iron-containing dioxygenase, can metabolize arachidonic acid to generate a variety of bioactive eicosanoids, including prostaglandins and leukotrienes . During the catalytic cycle of LOX, peroxyl radical complexes are formed and they can serve as sources of free radicals . The ability of daidzein at high dose to elicit the activation of pro-oxidant enzyme system provides a possible mechanism to explain why lipid peroxidation occurred in fat and liver when fed high dose of daidzein. Still it could not be excluded that the pro-oxidant function may be mediated through its metabolism because it is reported that 7,3′,4′-trihydroxyisoflavone (7,3′,4′-THIF), one of the major metabolites of daidzein was able to increase the ROS production in human cervical cancer cells . The results of this study indicate that daidzein supplementation led to pro- or anti-oxidant effects in a tissue-dependent manner.
The biological actions of isoflavones vary, depending upon their concentrations. Low concentrations enhance the antioxidant system [3, 4] and protect cells against oxidative stress [41, 42] while high concentrations may cause oxidative injury, such as DNA damage and cell death [36, 43]. The basis for the different effects of daidzein in muscle from other tissues, shown here, is not known but might reflect differential daidzein uptake or sensitivity in the various tissues, possibly related to its lipid solubility.
In summary, this study has demonstrated that high-level supplementation of a corn-soybean meal diet with daidzein enhances the redox system in the longissimus muscle of finishing pigs by down-regulating the pro-oxidant system and is without effect on indices of meat quality. At the same time, pro-oxidant responses were apparent in liver and fat tissue, suggesting that tissue-dependent actions existed.
5-LOX, 5-lipoxygenase; CAT, catalase; COX, cyclooxygenase; DMSO, dimethyl sulfoxide; GCL, glutamate cysteine ligase; GPx, glutathione peroxidase; GR, glutathione reductase; GSH, reduced glutathione; GSSG, oxidized glutathione; GST, glutathione-S-transferase; MDA, malondialdehyde; NOX, NADPH oxidase; P4508B1, cytochrome P-450 8B1; PAB, prooxidant-antioxidant balance; PPARα, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha; ROS, reactive oxygen species; T-AOC, total antioxidant capacity; TMB, 3,3′,5,5′-tetramethylbenzidine; T-SOD, total superoxide dismutase; γ-GCS, γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase.
The authors sincerely thank Dr. W. Bruce Currie (Emeritus Professor, Cornell University) for his help in presentation of this manuscript.
This study was supported by the “National Natural Science Foundation of China” (Grant No. 31072041), “National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program)” (Grant No. 2012CB124706-4; 2012CB124706-5), Science and Technology Planning Project of Guangdong Province (Grant No. 2013A061401020) and Science and Technology Program of Guangzhou (Grant NO. 2014Y2-00121).
Availability of data and material
The datasets supporting the conclusions of this article are included within the article.
WC, XYM, YCL and DQY carried out the animal experiment, data analysis and manuscript writing. YXX, DQY, YJH and WC conducted the biochemical and molecular assay. YCL, CTZ and ZYJ designed the study. All authors read and agreed the final manuscript.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Consent for publication
Ethics approval and consent to participate
The experimental protocol used in this study, including animal management, housing, and slaughter procedures, was approved by the Animal Care and Use Committee of Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
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